In a society where people compete directly with wildlife for the resources they need to survive, very few children are taught respect for the natural world or the value of protecting it. Over time, this creates a culture that is unsupportive of conservation and results in further conflict between humans and wildlife. At Wildlife Connection, we have developed our own conservation education curriculum, tailoring it to the aptitude and experience of children attending primary school in rural Tanzania. We focus on teaching sustainability and human wildlife conflict mitigation, as well as basic ecology. This early exposure to conservation education coupled with repeated positive experiences with wildlife will affect the value systems of generations of people, ultimately helping to build a culture of support for conservation.
In 2016 and 2017, we trained teachers in all 21 primary schools in the area to teach our conservation education curriculum. We continue to support teachers and monitor the delivery of the curriculum in each school throughout the year, ensuring that every child attending primary school in the area enjoys the same high quality experience. With the establishment and ongoing commitment to this program, we will reach nearly every primary school student in the area in perpetuity (approximately 1,300 students in 2017).
In the remote villages where we work, most people have very limited access to information or learning opportunities outside of a basic primary school education. This lack of information is incredibly disempowering to people, as it leaves them dependent upon the limited scope of their own experiences to form opinions and make decisions. This disenfranchisement impacts every facet of people’s lives, including their relationship with elephants and the environment. Most people, for example, have no idea that elephants are being poached to extinction in Tanzania. Their perception of the status of the local elephant population is directly related to the frequency with which they hear about elephant crop-raiding events in nearby villages. As long as there are enough elephants to continue raiding crops, people have no reason to think elephants won’t continue to exist as they always have. Even after people learn that elephants may disappear from Tanzania within the next 7 years, they have no knowledge of the unique ecological and economic role elephants play in their environment. As a result of this general lack of access to information, most people have no reason to protect elephants from poaching.
(Our librarian, Fatuma, pictured with our most frequent patron, Edward!)
We have developed two libraries in both Pawaga and Idodi divisions that we stock with newspapers, as well as a growing collection of books about local wildlife ecology and the environment. We also stock the library with storybooks in both English and Swahili, giving adults and children of all ages new opportunities to build their literacy skills. We have installed solar power and laptops in both libraries, so patrons can access the internet for news and information.
These libraries have become extremely popular, especially with the children who visit everyday after school!