Any conservation efforts to protect African wildlife and habitats can only be successful if they are relevant to those people who live alongside dangerous predators. By enabling these communities to recognise the benefits of protecting their wild heritage - social, cultural, ecological and economic - we are encouraging local involvement in long-term conservation solutions for the benefit of future generations.
One of the ways that Antelope Park works with the local community in Gweru is through the ALERT Education Centre (AEC), which offers free lessons in Conservation Education for children in Grades 6 and 7 (11 to 12 years old). Currently Antelope Park is hosting a research student, Ruth Armstrong from the UK, who is working with students at the AEC. Ruth is settling in well and is finding her time on the project a positive experience:
‘My second week at the AEC, and another rewarding day! The AEC teacher led a discussion with the class to recap what was learned in the previous lesson before I began teaching today’s topic - threats to wildlife. I started by having an open discussion with the children about their thoughts on this problem to create an interactive learning environment. I asked both open and leading questions before explaining each threat in detail to the class, which included poaching, human-wildlife conflict, trophy hunting, disease and pollution. I then summarised the points we had discussed on the board for the children to copy, in order for them to have comprehensive notes for future reference. The children were very keen to learn and discuss this topic and were shocked at some of the threats, particularly poaching, with one boy asking the emotive question: “Why would people do this to our animals?” It was at this point that I felt as if these children were really learning about something extremely important and that, given the chance to learn about conservation, wildlife and the environment, they are extremely passionate about it.’
Staff from Mkoba 4 Primary School, Antelope Park community project coordinators and volunteers joined together recently to organise an exciting sports day for children from the Special Needs Class. The day was full of fun and definitely one to remember for the children - and the organisers! Here is what three of the community volunteers had to say about it:
‘We got there after nine in the morning and the children in the Special Needs Class were so excited about the sports day. We had to start as soon as we got there, since it was a half day. We started by allocating the children into three different teams, red, green and blue. The volunteers did the face painting on the children and themselves, as well as blowing up balloons. We started by doing a relay which also included the volunteers and then we did a potato race where we used plates with sand in place of potatoes. We also did a volley ball match and all teams got to play twice. There was also a soccer match which we did using a quarter of the ground. The last one was the sack race which was very funny. It was all very competitive and at the same time very funny and all the volunteers got to participate in the activities too, which was great. Afterwards we served the snacks just before we left, and the kids enjoyed it so much. We had a wonderful day!’
‘I think that the Sports day was a success! We had the time to do five or six different sports. All the children got the chance to play and all of them seemed to have a really good time. Sports day is a really good idea and I hope that we’re doing it again.’
‘Today we had a sports day for the children. We split the children into three groups. Red, green and blue. My team, the green team Croco’s won the whole thing. Some of the activities were soccer, volley-ball, a potato race and relay. We celebrated with candy, it was a great day.’
Antelope Park volunteers who enjoy working with children are in their element during visits to our community projects. Time spent with the students of Mkoba 4 Primary School is always a particularly rewarding experience. This is what two volunteers have to say about their visit to the School:
‘I was in one of the kindergarten classes at Mkoba Primary and the topic was “myself”. We got the children to draw their homes and family. After that, we went out to play some games. We taught them a Norwegian game we used to do as kids. A lot of fun!’ Thea Stangeland, from Norway
‘Today we visited Mkoba Primary. I helped out in one of the kindergarten classes. They drew self-portrait pictures of their families and read story books. We also played outside. Overall everything went well! I really enjoyed the children and staff.’ Sara Dery, from the United States
If you would like to join us at one of our projects in Africa, you can find out how here.