Supporting Africa’s Students
March 22 2016

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.

Benjamin Franklin

Students attending African higher and vocational educational institutions are often required to undertake a thesis and / or work placement as part of their course, yet may experience difficulty sourcing or funding opportunities to do so.  As part of our ALERT Education Centre programme we, with the assistance of partners (Antelope Park Gweru, Lion Encounter Victoria Falls and Wildlife Encounter Livingstone), have been offering fully funded placements.  By the end of 2015, placements for 126 students from 17 educational institutions in Zambia and Zimbabwe had been provided, totalling over 900 months of placements between them.

Placements are continuing in 2016 with the following existing beneficiaries:

Sydney Masomere is reading Development Studies at Great Zimbabwe University.  He joined our programme in Victoria Falls in October 2015 and will be with us until August 2016, working alongside our community project team.  He is also working on his dissertation that looks at the challenges of implementing standard education in rural areas of Hwange District.  Sydney is pictured below leading a group of pupils at Chinotimba Primary School in an alphabet based vocabulary game as part of our English Literacy project.

Rejoice Mwene, who was attached to our programme in Victoria Falls in 2014 whilst as a student of the Chinhoyi University of Technology, is continuing since graduation with an internship as part of the team at Antelope Park.  She is focussed on researching the Ngamo release pride, as well as assisting with our various education and social development programmes.

Clive Mhonde, William Musvosvi and Denver Mpofu (Micronet College, Gweru: June 2015 – July 2016), Tracey Mbiriri (Micronet College, Gweru: June 2015 – April 2016), Dorcas Makanaka (Sizinda Vocational Training Centre, Bulawayo: June 2015 – April 2016), Yvette Mutsau (Sizinda Vocational Training Centre, Bulawayo: November 2015 – April 2016) and Fadzai Mudzingwa (YWCA Mkoba, Gweru: June 2015 – July 2016) are all interning at our Antelope Park project base in the lodge’s food and beverage department.

Blessing Mugwagwa (BEST College, Gweru: June 2015 – July 2016) is currently working in reception at Antelope Park for her internship.  She is undertaking research on the impact of labour turnover in the hospitality industry as part of her placement.

Douglas Shoko (National University of Science & Technology, Bulawayo: November 2015 – July 2016) is working with the lions at Antelope Park on his placement.  He is currently discussing what will be the focus of his research project with our team.  Irvine Tete (BEST College, Gweru: June 2015 – July 2016) is also focussed on the lions during his placement.

Simbarashe Gombedza and Rumbidzai Magwiro both joined our Victoria Falls programme in August 2015 until July 2016 as part of their Ecology and Wildlife Research course at the University of Zimbabwe.  Simbarashe’s research component is focussed on possible impacts of spotted hyenas on habitat use by lion and African wild dog within the Zambezi National Park, whilst Rumbidzai is focussed on the distribution and change in population densities of ungulates in the same park.

I had the opportunity to work with professionals within my field of study and that motivated me to work hard, giving me the chance to learn from them and also to apply what I learnt in school, especially with the amount of field experience they gave me and all this is what I really wanted for my attachment…  Being an intern with ALERT was worth all the time I spent there; it was all about being stretched to what I thought was my limit, and every time when I got to that point they would show me that there are really no limits to my life as an aspiring ecologist, conservationist, biologist and researcher.”  Rumbidzai Magwiro

My experience interning with ALERT has greatly enhanced my perception of the dynamics of the environment and biology from a wider viewpoint.  Growing up and learning in an urban setup, where most of the content learnt is from other peoples’ experience didn’t really quantify the magnitude of environmental issues like “extinction” and “conflict” between species to the fullest extent.  Since I began my internship with ALERT I started to realize the importance of conservation efforts.  Problems like human wildlife conflict (HWC) did not mean much but a mere interaction between people and wild animals. It was only when I got the opportunity to talk to the affected people through ALERT’s HWC management programme that I understood the gravity of the problem… Above all, interning with ALERT has given me the opportunity to work with and receive mentorship from highly experienced personnel from which I have received great inspiration.”  Simbarashe Gombedza

Tafadzwa Mlambo (National University of Science & Technology, Bulawayo: November 2015 – July 2016) is investigating the habitat preference of impalas due to changing seasons at our Antelope Park project site.

Mitchel Mpofu and Vimbai D Chinamora (Micronet College, Gweru: November 2015 – April 2016), Faith Siphuma (Gweru Polytechnic College: February – December 2016) and Kudakwashe Makumbe (Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo: February – December 2016) are all working at Antelope Park lodge for their placements.   Faith and Kudakwashe are currently discussing the focus of their research projects with our team.

Besides the capacity building objective of this project, the programme also gives us an opportunity to assess potential future employees.  Dabwiso Sakala, a former student of Zambia’s Copperbelt University joined our research team in Livingstone as a fully funded intern in early 2015.  Impressed with his abilities and attitude during his placement, Dabwiso was an obvious choice when a permanent position became available in the research team later in the year.  Dabwiso joined ALERT in October 2015 to focus on; conservation education, forest management, and elephant monitoring projects around Livingstone, as well as our park management assistance projects in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.

When I completed my studies I really wanted to exploit the knowledge and interests I had recently acquired. This aspiration was finally realized during my placement with ALERT, and better enough, I came to learn more about research techniques which made my University theoretical knowledge about conservation come to life. Joining ALERT as a researcher gives me the pride and honour in knowing that I am part of a team which is at the forefront of conserving Africa’s ecosystems, and similarly through conservation education, helping to raise a new generation of local people who are environmentally minded.”  Dabwiso Sakala

About

ALERT Education Centres (AECs)

Providing placements to African students 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.

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