African Wildlife Conservation Fund has teamed up with Happy Readers to try and get literacy books into the rural schools surrounding Save Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou National Park as part of our education and outreach program.
From initial literacy testing, it was clear that there was a serious need for this: even students towards the end of their primary school career were unable to read at all. And we are told by secondary schools teachers that they are also struggling with very high levels of complete illiteracy in their schools.
Just for a minute try and imagine your life if you couldn’t read… Imagine all those opportunities that you would not have had or been able to take advantage of. Imagine what a struggle it would be to do anything with your life. Imagine how you would have no alternative than to believe everything you are told, and no alternative than to depend on the natural resources around you for survival.
If you cannot read, you cannot learn, and if you cannot learn, you cannot change your life…
It’s a tragedy that Zimbabwe, which once had one of the highest literacy levels in Africa and one of the best education systems in the world, has now collapsed to such an extent that we see such shocking figures:
Thanks to funding from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund we were recently able to purchase Happy Reader level 1 books for eight more of the primary schools around the key wildlife areas. Together with the two schools we did last year, and two schools that Malilangwe Trust has sponsored, the books are now in twelve schools in the area. Since we work with 123 primary schools, we still have a way to go, but we’ve made a start and will have changed the lives of those students, without a doubt.
Last week, with the support of the District Education Officers of the four districts involved in the program at this stage, we held a training workshop for the teachers to use the scheme. I’ll post more about that workshop in the next post.
The Happy Reader Books use use animals as characters and help the children to relate to wild animals as individuals and friends rather than simply a food source. As the levels progress, they bring in basic conservation messages. We believe that this program (aimed at Grades 1 & 2s primarily) will complement our environmental education programs in the higher grades, thus helping us achieve our conservation goals as well.
The scheme has been shown to be successful in many of the areas where it has been implemented, and is so popular with teachers that virtually every single private primary school in Zimbabwe has bought the books. We just hope that we can help those poor rural schools to get the same opportunities.
If anyone can help – please click on DONATE on the right hand side of this page. Your money will go straight to the African Wildlife Conservation Fund via a safe and secure method (PayPal) and you can specify that you want it to be used for literacy books.
There are very few better ways to make a real difference to people’s lives.