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Report on Spes Bona Primary School’s visit to The Okonjima Nature Reserve and AfriCat’s Environmental Education Centre

3rd - 5th October 2012.


charlie mayhew and Nigel Richardson charlie mayhew
Charlie Mayhew (TUSK) and Nigel Richardson (THE DAILY TELEGRAPH)  Charlie Mayhew (TUSK) 

DAY 1:

Spes Bona day 1On the 3rd of October 2012 we had the pleasure of hosting 18 children from the Spes Bona Primary School at Okonjima and AfriCat’s Environmental Education Program.
The school is based in Otjiwarongo and caters for about a 1000 children from grades 1 up to 7.

For our VIP TUSK TRUST visit, we chose Spes Bona as it is one of the local schools and is one of the schools that the children who attend The Perivoli Okonjima Country School might move to as we currently only go up to Grade 4.

Furthermore they had never had the opportunity of a field trip before. Unfortunately we had to choose the top 18 scholars, because we cannot transport, nor accommodate more than that, even though there are 40 children in each class at Spes Bona.


Spes Bona schoolThe children who visited stayed for 2 nights and were accompanied by 2 teachers from the school. The average age was 13 and there were 5 boys and 13 girls all in grade 7.
The 3 days were spent doing a variety of different activities including game drives, educational games as well as lectures on the different aspects concerning conservation and the importance of awareness of our environment and the impact we as humans have on it.

We emphasise "having fun" at the same time as learning because we all remember the "good times" and we know this to be an effective "foot in the door" so to speak.




Spes Bona elementsSpes Bona plasticbags

The morning of their arrival we started with a talk about the 4 basic requirements that are essential for life to exist on earth, namely; - sunlight, water, soil, and air. We challenged the scholars to come up with ideas on how we can help to protect and conserve these elements and also made sure they understood the importance of the elements and how one element cannot go without the other. We also discussed the difference between the 'elements on the periodic table' and the term "elements" we use during the talk to ensure there were no confusion.

Spes Bona treasure hunt Spes Bona treasure hunt Spes Bona treasure hunt
Spes Bona swimming Spes Bona treasure hunt

The talk was followed by a treasure hunt which was based on the above discussion to see whether it was fully understood and as a fun activity. Then it was time for a swim! . . . . . in wonderful water!


Spes Bona termite moundIn the afternoon we went on a nature walk, showing and discussing different aspects about the fauna and flora that make up our beautiful surroundings. We looked at different tracks, common trees, insects and birds that are found within our reserve. We also had a look at termite mounds, and discussed how they work and the amazing ability of the termites to control temperatures in a very dry hot climate.


making rope making rope making rope
making rope Spes Bona nature walk Spes Bona nature walk

We ended up in a dry river bed where the children were given a chance to dig for water. I found it quite amazing that the majority of the children did not know that you could find water in these rivers by digging only a few centimeters. One would think that traditionally this would have been taught to them by their parents. Sadly and clearly not anymore!

digging for waterdigging for water

DAY 2:
Day 2 started with an early morning game drive to see the different animals found within Okonjima’s game reserve. Concentrating mostly on herbivores we explained the difference between grazers and browsers and showed them examples of these animals. The kids were excited and amazed to see the majority of the animals as most had never seen a giraffe or a zebra in their life, despite living in a country where they are common. This assured us that we were on the right track!


After the drive we had a talk and discussion about the importance of large carnivores in an ecosystem. We concentrated mostly on cheetah and leopard as these are the two cats that cause the most conflict between people and animals on farmland. We made sure the children could tell the difference between these two cats and also understood the difference in behavior between them. This is essential to help them explain to their families, who mostly rely on farming, how to tell the difference and also how to adjust their farming methods to help reduce or even stop stock losses.

We then played 2 different games designed to practically show the difference between leopard and cheetah behavior and also emphasize the amazing running ability of the fastest land mammal in the world. It was very hot so once again a swim . . . . in "wonderful water"

wahu wahu wahu

 wahuThe afternoon was used to show the children both leopard and cheetah from the safety of a hide. Once again it was the first time these children has ever seen a leopard or cheetah. We then visited The AfriCat Foundation main office. This is done to show the children the work of the Foundation through posters and displays on the wall and to enable them to touch cheetah and leopard pelts and handle skulls on display. This further helped them to understand the difference between these two cats. At the AfriCat Clinic we looked at radio collars and other types of equipment used by the Foundation.

africat info centreafricat info centre

africat info centreafricat info centre

During the evening we challenged the children to have a debate about the pros and cons of having large carnivores on farmland. This enabled them to see the problem from both sides, not just from a conservation side but also from a farming side. We ended the evening with a night walk that included the observation of different stars and also a period of complete silence to take in the different sounds at night. Most of the children had not walked outside after nightfall.

DAY 3:
The last morning we started off again with a game drive in the reserve and were lucky enough to actually see 3 cheetahs hunting. This was something the scholars have never seen and the amazement on their faces to see a cheetah running at full speed was probably the most rewarding experience for me. After the drive we had an overview of everything they had learnt during the 3 days at AfriCat and also an opportunity for them to ask questions and share their thoughts on the experience they had with us.

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tusk telegraph tusk telegraph tusk telegraph
tusk telegraph tusk telegraph tusk telegraph
tusk telegraph tusk telegraph

We then held a prize-giving and handed out information pamphlets on conservation in Namibia. Their stay came to an end with a swim in the campsite pool, a highlight for many of them.


Overall the experience for the kids was mind blowing and they all expressed that in their 3 day stay they learned more, because it was not just 'sitting and listening', but a lot of practical and fun things to do, that made the difference.
We have identified 4 children that showed the most interest and exceeded in many of the activities and discussions. They will be invited again next year to join a longer camp in the school holidays. Here we will put them together with students from other schools that we have identified. The idea is to create environmental awareness outside their normal school activities and to teach them to communicate better with people they might not know, but who share the same passion for conservation.

We will also try to promote the formation of environmental clubs on a community basis, rather than linked to individual schools only. We believe that together they can make a bigger difference.

One thing that should be mentioned is the importance of outreach. AfriCat does not just concentrate on schools close to us, but also in more remote areas where the opportunities for children are less.

"In the end we will only conserve what we love
We will only love what we understand
And we will only understand what we are taught."

Compiled by: AJ Rousseau & Helen Newmarch
AfriCat Environmental Educators

2013: The TUSK TRUST will be sponsoring the teacher’s salary of AfriCat’s Environmental Education programme.  Tusk Projects » Countries » Namibia » AfriCat Foundation

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