A guiding aim of the ALERT Education Centre’s (AEC) conservation education programme, developed in partnership with Coventry University and David Brackstone of John Taylor High School, is to encourage communities’ engagement with the natural environment in which they live, and to assist in understanding the advantages of living alongside and conserving local wildlife, habitat and ecosystems.
Conservation education is critical in creating positive perceptions and attitudes/behaviours towards wildlife and the environment. The course is taught in modules, involving peer to peer group discussions as a participatory way of learning, and problem-based learning exercises.
In Gweru, central Zimbabwe, 60 students from Takunda School have just completed all the modules of the AEC curriculum.
During the African Animals module, efforts were made to demystify some commonly held beliefs and misconceptions regarding some of the wildlife found in Africa. For example, most nocturnal animals are associated in some manner with witchcraft and evil; these include hyenas, leopards and owls. The head of a vulture is said to be used by fortune tellers and thieves to be able to foresee the future and reveal anything concealed (with thieves being able to find any hidden money you have in your house). Students were taught about how all these animals are a part of the rich biodiversity of Africa’s ecosystems, and play an important role in maintaining those ecosystems.
ALERT intern, Tiana Jones, assisted with the lessons at the AEC. As a teacher back home, and also having a background in conservation, Tiana made a great contribution to the AEC team and helped to deliver fun-filled and effective lessons. As she has a strong passion for lions, Tiana spoke in detail about the species and the work that ALERT is doing.
During this lesson, students were given the opportunity to watch a documentary about a Kenyan boy, Richard Turere, who scared off lions with his flashing light invention, saving lions and his father’s cattle in the process (a system being trialed by ALERT in Zimbabwe). They thoroughly enjoyed the film, inspired to see a young boy, about their age, achieving something so effective. Since watching the documentary, students have been constantly looking for opportunities to demonstrate their learning and appreciation for wildlife and the environment. For example, our team has noticed that on arrival at the AEC while waiting for lessons to start, instead of just sitting or playing, the students have been walking around picking up litter. This is something they started doing on their own without any instruction from our team; a positive sign that the lessons are ‘hitting home’.
The 21st of October was a day of celebration for the graduating students, as they enjoyed seeing the wildlife at Antelope Park during a game drive. Their learning during the lesson designed to eradicate myths about certain animals was tested when the students were shown a python. Many managed to build up enough courage to hold it; a huge milestone for them.
This group of students were extremely receptive throughout their conservation course; actively participating in all lessons and activities and overall performing well in all given tasks.
About ALERT’s Conservation Education Project
Our conservation education syllabus was developed by ALERT in partnership with Coventry University and David Brackstone of John Taylor High School. Evaluation of the effectiveness of the syllabus in changing attitudes towards a more positive view of conservation has been undertaken by Coventry University as well as by Ruth Armstrong, of Edinburgh Napier University. ALERT has also established a tripartite agreement between ALERT, Copperbelt University (Zambia) and Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) to improve conservation education provision in these two countries.
The syllabus has four main objectives:
- to increase participants’ awareness of their environment and assist them in developing sound judgement in the management of natural resources;
- to involve participants in activities to increase their understanding of environmental issues;
- to encourage participants to develop the ability to view situations from an environmental point of view, and to undertake simple investigations and interpret the results, and;
- to emphasize to participants the potential of the environment as a source of benefits and therefore something to conserve, manage and sustain.
This work combines science with local knowledge, to ensure we deliver a conservation education curriculum that positively impacts upon students’ attitudes and behaviours, and is culturally appropriate for the children and communities we reach.
About ALERT Education Centres (AEC)
Conservation Education is one aspect of the work of our ALERT Education Centres. The AEC operations at Livingstone (Zambia), Victoria Falls and Antelope Park (Zimbabwe) are all aimed at supporting the formal education system by offering extra-curricular activities to enhance student learning, and assisting with access to education for vulnerable students. Current programs include the provision of classes in conservation education, basic life skills, and English literacy. In addition, we provide funding to pay the fees of vulnerable students to take part in education from pre-school to university level, and fully funded internship and facilitated research placements for university level students. Future programmes will incorporate classes in numeracy, health & nutrition, physical education and business studies/entrepreneurship, as well as a variety of vocational training. The AEC is operated in association with Coventry University (UK), Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) and Copperbelt University (Zambia), and with the assistance of David Brackstone of John Taylor High School (UK). The first AEC, at Antelope Park, was opened in 2012 by the then Zimbabwe Minister of Education, Mr. David Coltart.
Join us at the AEC
ALERT offers a Conservation Education internship for those keen to gain hands-on teaching experience, while contributing to the protection and preservation of Africa’s wildlife. Interns will help in preparing and delivering lessons both in the classroom and on field trips. The syllabus encompasses environmental conservation, ecology and biodiversity, sustainability, and wildlife ecology and management. If you are interested in an internship at the AEC at Antelope Park click here full details.
Make a donation to support our work.
If you are able to contribute to fund our conservation education programme, you can make a donation here.