Students in the Hwange and Tsholotsho Districts of Zimbabwe live and learn side by side with wildlife with the country’s largest protected area, the Hwange National Park. This experience directly impacts every aspect of their lives and their families agro-based livelihoods as they learn to co-exist with the wildlife industries of conservation and tourism. Helping bring understanding and practical strategies to balance these considerations is one of the IFAW’s programs for primary age students, the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP. Working in partnership with ZimParks and local schools, IFAW brings resources and activities that support and equip children’s learning now and for the future.
Program: Community Engagement
Project: Environmental Stewardship Program
The Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) aims to provide a range of engaging educational resources and experiences to students as a strategy to create a sense of ownership and understanding of the dynamics between people, wildlife, and environmental interaction. The focus is to help foster the sustainable development understanding that actions today support the present and future generations. For Hwange, this helps build conservation sustainability.
The ESP is delivered in 13 of the 21 target schools across the two districts, at least 195 students between the ages of 8 and 13 years participate on the program. The program provides access and delivery of inclusive and high-quality educational resources including textbooks, heritage and artistic activities through poetry, dance and choral music, tuition fees, conservation-themed supplementary materials, and teacher training. And for those children who have to walk more than 5 km to school, the program offers bicycles which is helping increase attendance.
An important element of the ESP is guided tours for students and teachers into Hwange National Park for experiential ecological learning. The park is home to the largest population of elephants in Zimbabwe and Africa’s largest population of the endangered wild dog. Management of its resources and wildlife, including providing access to water largely through boreholes, requires constant attention, as does its tourism. For students, the field trips help connect their in-school learning with the practical realities, challenges, and opportunities of creating sustainable communities.
Salipicio Zende, ZimParks Community Extension Officer at Main Camp Hwange National Parks, describes the value of the outreach visits as “giving educators unparalleled access to help students understand their relationship to, and impact on, nature”. John Kogada, IFAW’s Community Engagement Program Director, says for the children of Hwange and Tsholotsho Districts who are “immersed in nature, the ESP helps them appreciate and understand the complex role of stewardship and how they can contribute”.
As advocates for equity in education and facilitating the continued engagement of girls and young women in their schooling, The Phillips Foundation support helps deliver teacher training, teaching and learning resources, bicycles, and outreach activities.