Thirty six young Conservation leaders and their coordinators made a virtual visit to the Education Centre at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya last Thursday. The youngsters are all members of school Wildlife or Environment Clubs that participated in our series of Conservation talks and virtual visits in the school holiday, organised with Ninety One. We are thrilled that so many children were able to overcome connectivity and equipment constraints to learn from such experienced conservation educators – and hugely grateful to the Lewa team for reaching out beyond their borders in this way.
The students, from secondary schools in three countries, were either unable to join the August visit or were there for a second time in order to assist their class-mates. The event was an opportunity for children from coastal and montane East Africa and Central Africa to learn first hand about conservation issues, solutions and successes in a savanah region quite different to their own. The children are all active leaders in their schools or communities, posing their questions to experts, alongside peers and adults in other countries, widens their horizons, confidence and ambitions, lifts them from local to members of a Pan African conservation community.
Ephantus Mugo, Lewa’s Education Officer, explained the role of the Centre and its place in the Conservancy and wider communities. He showed us interactive exhibits illustrating the causes and ways to prevent damage to ecosystems, the implications for wildlife and human communities. With the help of life size Lion and Rhino exhibits we learned about the problems and solutions to poaching, and how Lewa’s model of providing scholarships, school infrastructure, teacher and teaching support, funded by tourism revenues, has engaged and involved local communities in conservation.
Eleven Conservation educators from the wider PACE network also joined us – Education officers, Environmental Education teachers and Teacher trainers from as far afield as Madagascar. Lewa’s education programme and team are a benchmark for the continent – the guests on Thursday were keen to hear about Lewa’s experience and learn how they can overcome the local hurdles they face in order to implement education activities that bring about genuine change.
It is a huge credit to Ephantus that children and adults alike found the visit exciting and informative. Questions, which were very thoroughly answered, ranged from –
- How many kinds of rhino do you have there?
- If a rhino is on your farm is it OK to kill it?
- How do you get school teachers to engage with conservation education?
- How do you really involve communities in conservation?
Appreciation to the schools, coordinators and project managers who took time to liaise, adjust teaching schedules, organise transport and equipment, brief kids and negotiate connectivity problems. Above all, thanks Lewa for going that extra mile.