Conservation for Kids: Education Through Exploration
As part of its ongoing commitment to the surrounding communities, Singita Pamushana (Zimbabwe) partners with the Malilangwe Trust which runs regular courses in conservation education for pupils at local schools. The four-day courses are held at nearby Hakamela Camp for students in Grade 6 and 7 who come from eleven local schools.
The courses are designed to teach students the value of conserving the environment and the wildlife for both their own future and that of their communities. The courses consist of classroom lessons at Hakamela, game drives in the reserve, and visits to the Malilangwe Dam to learn about aquatic conservation.
"Young people are the future,” says Tendai Nhunzwi, Director of Malilangwe's Neighbour Outreach Program. “If we involve them in conservation at a tender age, it will help make wildlife and the environment sustainable. When they have been on these courses, the children become ambassadors to the local communities and we have seen some very positive results."
"Parents tell us that the children chide them when they are doing things wrong, whether it’s causing erosion through over-ploughing or cutting down trees. Poaching has also been reduced and the local communities have begun to report suspected poachers. The plays that the children create and then act out at the end of the course often show the dangers of poaching and why it so destructive."
Shepherd Mawire, Projects Co-ordinator for the Malilangwe Trust and the man who designs and runs the Conservation Education programme, agrees. "The results are very positive," say Shepherd. "When they come on the course, many of the children have never even used cutlery before so they have to learn quickly."
"We teach them about all aspects of the environment from explaining how wildlife is identified and categorised, the diets of the animals, to how all the creatures in the ecosystem depend on one another and what happens if the cycle of nature is disturbed."
"The children understand how looking after the wildlife and the environment can benefit them in the long-term," concludes Shepherd. "Singita Pamushana is a source of jobs for them and their families and the benefits are long-term. Even telling the children that they will not be able to go on the course if they have a bad attendance record has improved the present registers at the schools."
"And when we ask them at the end of each course what they would like to do when they grow up, it’s amazing to see how much their horizons have expanded from just a few days before. At the beginning most want to be teachers, nurses or to join the police which are the jobs they see around them every day. But by the end of the course, they realise that there are other options open to them and they want to be guides, game scouts or part of the research team. Their mind-set has already changed and they want to be part of a good thing that’s happening.”
Richard and Sarah Madden are freelance travel writers and filmmakers who were based in the Malilangwe Reserve at Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. Their series of short films from the region is entitled “Bush Tales” and explores Singita’s community development, ecotourism and conservation work in Southern Africa.