For ten years, ALERT conducted a formal conservation education programme in Victoria Falls to primary school learners to encourage them to engage with the natural environment and assist them in understanding the advantages of living alongside and conserving local wildlife habitats, and ecosystems. This was to help them identify ways humans impact the environment and to encourage them to explore and promote alternatives that reduce or reverse these effects. The syllabus was created by a team of qualified teachers, local educators, and ALERT staff.
Following the success of the conservation education programme in five schools (Monde, Chikamba, Simakade, Neluswi, and Chamabondo Primary Schools) since 2008, the ALERT Education Centre (AEC) project was developed at the end of 2012 to undertake a variety of empowerment programs through classes, workshops, internships, facilitated research programs, and field trips. We aimed to include: conservation education classes, basic life skills courses, teaching in health and nutrition, fully funded internship sand facilitated research placements to student of African educational facilities, vocational training in a variety of fields, provide for the schooling costs of most vulnerable children in society. In Victoria Falls, over 200 children from Chamabondo Primary School had taken part in conservation education programs over a 12 week syllabus in the same year. Almost $11,000 was raised to support the schooling costs of the most vulnerable children.
In 2015, the programme was revised, written and resourced by a team of qualified teachers and Coventry University and was implemented in partnership with Copperbelt and Midlands State Universities. Teachers at schools with whom we have operated conservation education programmes all reported students engaged better in all other school classes, most notably in environmental studies, social studies, and English literature. In 2015, over 600 students took part in our conservation education programmes across our three project sites in Victoria Falls, and Gweru, Zimbabwe and in Livingstone, Zambia.
In 2017, students showed a progressive increase in positive attitudes and behaviour over time in youth who participated in the course. In 2018, as part of these programs, ALERT organized a “World Giraffe Day” fun gathering and competition as part of its Conservation Education Program. The children were taught about giraffe conservation, how the populations are decreasing and how to help conserve this vulnerable species. These programs continued until 2021, with COVID-19 significantly impacting the Conservation Education program, due to children being kept from school, however during the few periods where they were allowed back, ALERT researchers carried out some conservation classes.