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AfriCat's 2013 Environmental Education Programme

2013 MARKED THE REJUVENATION OF THE AFRICAT ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAMME.

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For the past 3 years most of the Environmental Education has been fairly slow and irregular due to the lack of funding as well as a permanent Environmental Educator. During the last quarter of 2012 AfriCat was able to secure funding via TUSK. Thanks to the TUSK Trust for a permanent Environmental Educator! This enabled us to start up again and so the AfriCat Environmental Education Programme is back on track! Since March we have had the pleasure of hosting 3 consecutive Environmental Education camps.

Starting on the 8th of March we first hosted 2 groups from the Karibib Private School, followed by one more from an organization called "Mondesa Youth Opportunities". The group from Karibib Private School was divided into two groups and spread out over two weekends. The main reason for this is transport. Most small schools don’t have big buses and their capacity is mostly about 20 people per bus. So even if we can accommodate more than twenty people getting them to us is the problem. The Mondesa Youth Opportunities group had the same problem. Although they had more than 20 learners who wanted to come, their bus was only able to take a max of 16 people.

The children from both Karibib Private School, as well as MYO, were between the ages of 10 and 13, which are the final years in primary school. All the learners showed a lot of interest in conservation and this made teaching them a lot easier and more enjoyable for us! The one fact that did stand out was that the majority of them had never seen a cheetah or a leopard before!

Most of the game species like giraffe, zebra and wildebeest had also never been seen by the learners. All these animals played a huge role in creating interest as well as awareness amongst the learners. The nature walks are also something that the learners relate to very well. The benefit of nature walks is that the scholars are able to use all their senses. We encourage them to be aware of everything around them, to listen, to feel, and also to realize that we are all part of the environment we live in. While walking we discuss a large number of topics relating to conservation and also give them a lot of interesting and amazing facts about animals and plants. This generates a lot of curiosity and makes the learners think, and debate, about our place in the world.

Currently we are putting a lot of effort into the marketing, and distributing of information to the schools and environmental clubs in Namibia.

The AfriCat Environmental Education Facebook page is also up and running.

We try to update the page as frequently as possible and create a site where the information, and education, never stops flowing. The AfriCat and Okonjima websites also now will contain all our contact information, the weekend program, as well as everything you need to know about The AfriCat Environmental Education Programme.  (coming soon)

See also: Education on the Okonjima Website

 

We are also driving out to different schools around Namibia to go and meet the teachers and students that we hope to be working with. A large number of schools do not have access to computers or the internet, and some don’t even have phone access. To reach these isolated schools can be a challenge at times, but the reward of making the effort, makes it all worthwhile.

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SUPPORT NEEDED:
The first 3 camps also allowed us to identify potential difficulties that may arise for the programme in the future. The biggest at the moment is transport.
We do not have a reliable, suitable vehicle to do outreach in many schools which are very isolated. It often requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle as the areas the schools are in can be very remote and in very difficult terrain. The second transport problem is here at home on Okonjima. Currently we are 100% reliant on the Okonjima game viewing vehicles. This means that when the peak tourism season starts in July, we might not have transport available to do game drives with the children.

Seeing as this is one of the highlights of the learners stay with us and that the game drives play an integral part in what we are trying to teach, this potential problem needs immediate attention by the AfriCat Board.

The other thing that has also become apparent is that the majority of the interest towards our programme is mostly coming from very poor schools. This means that the transport of learners to, and from, AfriCat’s Environmental Education Centre can not be covered by the majority of the schools that want to come and visit. Therefore we will have to consider providing transport to the poorest schools using the Okonjima bus.

Although it will be of greater cost to us, the opportunities, and the awareness it will create for these disadvantaged children, can not be measured in dollars and cents. Therefore I think it is worth the consideration. We have approached the Ministry of Education for assistance with transport and hopefully this will be forthcoming, but it will not always be available and requires quite a long booking procedure.

 

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MAY, JUNE AND BEYOND . . .
We are also working towards creating a week long programme. This will be more beneficial to the children as we will be able to provide a wider more complete programme with time for practical application. We are putting a great deal of consideration and planning into this programme to ensure it is well balanced and appropriate. This takes time, but should be available shortly!

The next couple of months are going to be very busy and exciting with a lot of schools that want to come. The majority of interest is currently coming from primary schools, but we hope to be able to accommodate some secondary schools as well. If we are able to host 800 scholars and students at our Centre and reach 2000 children by giving talks at schools, I think it is a realistic goal for our first year of the new programme.

By AJ Rousseau (AfriCat Environmental Educator)

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