Tag Archives: Education

Educating, Empowering, Conserving!

It is all too often said that education is fundamental to mobilise change. In our case, it is the building blocks for long-term support of wildlife conservation, and sustainable use of natural resources by local communities.

Local Teachers, Local Heroes

With 89 schools to support around Savé Valley Conservancy, Victor typically only reaches each school once per term, or three times per year. Thus, we ultimately rely on our local teachers to implement our conservation resources and education materials on a day-to-day basis. As such, we recently had a Teachers Feedback Workshop where we evaluated our existing resources with a gathering of local teachers, and discussed what type of resources they would find most useful in the future.

This was a wonderful day where educators came together and shared ideas on how to implement resources into their classes and motivate the children’s interest in wildlife. Ultimately, we want our resources to be user-friendly, compatible with the existing syllabus, helpful and USED by the teachers!


Teachers enjoying themselves at the workshop.


Attachment student, Golden Mukaro, discusses our carnivore posters with the teachers.


Rosemary Groom chairs a collective feedback session at the end of the workshop.


Thank you to the Chiredzi District Education Officer for attending the workshop!


Dressed for Success

Have a look at our revamped vehicle for our Gonarezhou Predator Project education team. Taking wildlife to the people! Not only is the vehicle fun and exciting for the children, but it depicts much of the local wildlife from Gonarezhou National Park, including the iconic Chilojo Cliffs. Ezekia and Anesu, our community education officers for the project, are definitely going to draw the crowds in as they move through the communities, and as such, have plenty of opportunity to educate, empower, and encourage the local people to help conserve!


Ezekia and Anesu, our proud and excited community education officers.

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pangolin, school children, zebra and more…

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An African Fish Eagle soars across the bonnet.

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Of course there are some African wild dogs camped out on the door!


 A Picture says a Thousand Words

It is currently school holidays so Victor has spent the last two weeks busy with our Mobile Education Library in the communities. This is an opportunity for all, young and old, to learn about wild dogs, watch wildlife documentaries and read books and magazines that cover a spectrum of environmental and conservation issues.


Victor addresses a local community about African wild dog conservation.


Why are wild dogs decreasing?


These gatherings are a great opportunity for local people to discuss problems they may be having living alongside wildlife, or local farming problems, and to be provided with sound and practical solutions.


A young man eyes one of our carnivore posters.


Learning about water conservation.


A group of gentlemen discuss the material they have come across.


Three young girls thoroughly enjoying their morning at the AWCF Mobile Education Library!


The DVD’s are a very popular activity and the people will cram themselves into the smallest places to get a brief glimpse of the documentary.


Three older men gather under the shade of a tree to learn more about wildlife conservation.


There is still plenty more to come this year, including another Happy Readers Workshop to provide literacy books to another 10 schools, our leadership and conservation training field trip for our secondary scholars, and cluster competitions between the schools where they will battle it out to show who has the most extensive knowledge of African wild dogs and predator conservation!

Happy Readers Literacy Workshop

Hi folks,

As you’ll have seen from the last post, there is an urgent need to improve the literacy levels in rural primary schools in Zimbabwe.  The fact is that most children can barely read by the time they leave primary school (12/13 years old).  What chance will these children have in life??

It’s not their fault – it’s not that they are stupid or don’t pay attention in lessons.  It’s not always the case that the teachers don’t care or don’t know how to teach.  It’s because they have nothing to learn with.  How can you learn to read a book without a book??  And even if you have a book, if you haven’t been taught to read through a proper literacy training program, you cant just pick it up and read it.

Teaching someone to read is no easy job.  And it’s impossible without the right resources.

We have therefore teamed up with Happy Readers to try and do something about this.  We recently provided sets of the nine Level 1 Literacy Books to eight more schools around Save Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou.

And we then held a workshop to train the teachers in how to use the resource, and why it works.  We had a great representation from the 12 schools that now have the books, and were also honored by the presence of the District Education Officer from Chipinge District and representatives from the Chiredzi and Buhera DEO offices.



Conor O’Beirne from Happy Readers came down to do the workshop:


The teachers listened attentively and by all accounts were thrilled with the concept of the scheme



A game towards the end got everyone involved and showed what fun learning to read can be, when it’s done right:


Finally, it was time for the presentation of the books:

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Malilangwe Trust also bought the books for two of their schools, so in total we were able to hand out books for 10 more schools!  Literacy tests have been conducted in the schools, and we look forward to seeing the progress next year.

Back soon,




AWCF’s Literacy Training Program Continues

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:

screen shot of test results

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.

Thank you!


AWCF scholarhsip students set for the year

Hi folks,

While I’ve been away, our community liaison officer, Victor, has been out and about visiting all our secondary school scholars to ensure that the schools have received the fees we paid, and to check up on how they are doing.

For last years scholars, the idea was to ensure that they are still happy and doing well and to ensure their fees and uniforms etc were all in order.  Our attachment student Nobesuthu went along as well, and between her and Victor they gave the students fantastic motivation for working hard and getting good grades throughout their school career.


Our new scholars were met for the first time and were given their predator scholarship certificates, which they were very proud of.  All seemed to be happy in their new schools and enthusiastic about the year ahead.


For some students, all the teachers turned out to witness the certificate being handed over, and for others, the big smile said it all!



We look forward to seeing how they do this year and to engaging them with some of AWCF’s activities, to include them in the team.  All of these students are from extremely poor families, and would not have been able to continue to secondary school without our support.  It’s very emotional to think that these bright students would be back in the villages and most probably married off in the next year or two, had they not been given this opportunity.


So thank you very much to all of you who have supported our project through this blog, or in other ways, and who have enabled this support to be given.  If anyone would like to help with the continued support of these students, please get in touch through a comment on the blog.  Donations can be made by clicking on this link.

Back soon,


Nobesuthu Ngwenga joins the AWCF team

Hi Folks,

The title of this blog should really read “Nobesuthu Ngwenya joined the AWCF team”, as she has in fact been with us for a few months already (where has time gone?!).  But it struck me, as I was posting some photos of her recently, that I have never properly ‘introduced’ her to you all.

Nobesuthu is a third year undergraduate student at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where she is doing her BSc in Forestry Resources and Wildlife Management.

Nobesuthu joined the AWCF team in September, for her attachment year, in partnership with Chishakwe Ranch.  She’s been a great addition to the team; she is a quick learner and keen to get involved in all the different aspects of our multi-disciplinary conservation project.

Here she is sorting books;

Helping out with the mobile education unit:

Helping with an emergency de-snaring of an African wild dog:

And helping out on a recent school bush camp:

Nobesuthu seems to be enjoying the experience and gaining a lot from it.  In her own words, “Being part of the wild dog project has been the greatest thing that l have ever experienced. It has been a big turn round to my whole life on my character and attitude towards the beautiful things life brings us, our wildlife. I have learnt a lot about wild dog tracking, darting, collaring, comunity education, and all about conservation of wildlife, its an endless list. Working with Rosemary, the scouts and everyone in the project has been really overwhelming, they just know their stuff, I wouldn’t miss out on a chance with them to explore, learn and take up the challenge“.

It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to help guide and train a promising young Zimbabwean conservationist.  Let’s hope this is the start of a long and productive career in wildlife conservation for Nobesuthu.

Local communities celebrate wildlife

For the second year running, the African Wildlife Conservation Fund was invited as guests of honor to the Grade Seven Graduation Day held by a cluster of schools on the Save Valley Conservancy’s western boundary.  These schools; Chedutu, Checheni, Ziki and Chinyika, are all part of our conservation education program and Chedutu, Checheni and Chinyika are all AWCF predator-scholarship winning schools as well.

The day was a great success, with good attendance.

One of the main aims was to encourage primary school leavers to continue to secondary school, and to encourage the parents, who also attended, that this was something worth paying for.  Wildlife was the theme of the day, and AWCF community liaison officer Victor Chibaya spoke about the value of wildlife and the importance of conserving it.  Victor, and our attachment student Nobesuthu Ngwenya also got an opportunity to meet two of our scholarship students, who had attended the participating primary schools.

We look forward to working with these schools more.


Five Harare schools visit Chishakwe on a Field Trip

Hi folks,

Last weekend we had 34 students and 7 teachers from five different Harare-based Goverment schools visiting Chishakwe Ranch (where the AWCF field team is based) for a bush camp.  The trip was the prize for the top schools that participated in the Wild Dog Awareness Day at Mukuvisi in August.  They were great kids and we all had a fantastic time.

Early on the first morning, we took them out on a bush walk, in two groups.  This was one of the highlights of the trip, which the kids loved.  By the comments and discussion afterwards it was clear they had learned a lot.  Professional guides Mark Houghton and Mr Bert kindly volunteered their time to allow us to conduct the walks safely and generously shared their immense bush knowledge with the kids.

They learned about trees, tracks, animal behaviour, bush survival, and radio tracking.  Most kids got a turn to try radio tracking a hidden wild dog collar, which was great fun (they didnt know it was just a planted collar!)

Here they learned about crocodiles, water birds, and safety around rivers in the bush:

During a brief “quiet time” after the walk, we asked the kids to write down what they had learned or enjoyed most on the walks.  Many of the answers showed they had really been listening, and all showed that they had enjoyed themselves.  Here are a few examples of what was written:

Since we had a lot of interest in the baobabs and their uses, we took the students to the “Big Tree”.  This is one of the largest baobabs in Zimbabwe, and we are lucky to have it on Chishakwe Ranch.  The kids were awed by it’s size and amazed that it could take all 34 of them holding hands to encircle the base of the tree!

We had lots more other adventures, which I will post about in the next post.  But I would like to say here a huge thank you to Chishakwe for not only providing great accommodatin for students and teachers, but for helping us out with some of their staff, including scouts to accompany us on walks, and their amazing Chef Stanford, who ably handled cooking for 45 people, and produced great meals.

Look out for the next post where we had kids racing cheetah times, working as packs of wild dogs to catch impalas, learning antipoaching tactics and going on game drives!

Back soon,



Song of the Carnivores – 2nd performance at Intwasa

Hi folks,

You may remember a post a while ago about a spectacular musical performance in Bulawayo – the Song of the Carnivores.  The whole program involved music, song, poetry, art and educational lectures – all about the magnificant five large carnivores of Zimbabwe.  But it was the overall musical and choral performance of “The Song” which was the focus of the event last May.

Due to the fantastic success of the first performance, a second performance was held last week at the Old City Hall in Bulawayo.  I was super-excited to be able to attend this time, as I hadn’t been able to go to the last performance.

Once again it was truly spectacular show, and thanks must go to the British Council and to Dr Netty Purchase of the Rangewide Program for Cheetah and Wild Dog in southern Africa for all they did to make it happen.

Amongst other distingished guests to attend the performance was Zimbabwe’s minister of sports, arts and education, David Colthart, who opened the performance with a great motivational speech.

Many different schools participated in this performance and it was a truly spectacular show- made all the more wonderful by the fact that it was so directly about conservation of the five large carnivores.  This performance had a great educational narration between each verse, beautifully done by high school students, and if there is anything that is going to get the conservation message into a large group of young minds, this was it!

The afternoon also saw a display of many of the pieces of art that had been submitted in the art competition (some of which showed a fantastic talent), as well as poetry readings of the winning poems and a shorter series of talks about the five carnivores (we did the wild dog one).

Excitingly, the Song of the Carnivores will be performed again in London, UK, in November at an event at London Zoo, where Usain Bolt will be the guest of honour!!  He has agreed to be the official spokesman for cheetah conservation and everyone is thrilled that this project is to be taken to these levels.

Thanks again to all those great people and organisations that made this happen.


School scholarhips

Hi all,

As one of the strands of our multidimensional environmental education program, we provide secondary school scholarships to students from the primary schools we work in around the Save Valley Conservancy.  In order to try to maintain the link between the scholarships and our wildlife conservation efforts we call these “Predator Scholars”.  Each year we give five new scholarships out, each one for full expenses for the full six years of secondary school.

All the students we support are from very poor homes and would not be able to remain in school without the support of these scholarships.

I went to visit the scholars the other day, to see how they were doing and check on their progress with the head teachers.  I was pleased to find most of them with good results and getting good reviews from teachers.

Below is Melody Makeyi with her scholarship certificate in the headmasters study.  And below that is myself with Talent Muonde, our leopard scholar attending Kushingiriri Secondary School.  Talent was at Muvava Primary, the school supported by Chishakwe Ranch, where she also received a primary school scholarship from Chishakwe.  She is extremely bright and we hope she will go far in her life and career.

As the program develops, we hope to include these students in other aspects of our project in order to foster the link between the scholarships and conservation and also to give them some exposure to possible careers in the wildlife sector.

I’ll let you know how they all do as time goes on.  If anyone would like to sponsor a student through secondary school, either fully or partially, please make a donation by clicking on the DONATE button on the right hand side of this page, or by visiting the African Wildlife Conservation Fund education project site.




Talks to schools about Wild Dogs

Hi Folks,

As I mentioned in the last post, I recently went to Bulawayo to give a lecture, but in addition to that several talks had been arranged for me to give at different schools – both primary and secondary – around Bulawayo.  At the risk of being boring, the topic was, of course, wild dogs!

The secondary schools got a relatively informative presentation, and I was impressed by the interest and questions afterwards, which showed a good understanding of the topic and a keen interest.

The primary schools were a little more daunting – what on earth do you do with 600+ children from 4 years old upwards?!

Well, after talking to them briefly about what wild dogs were, we soon got them up and about, with 1 being an impala and then ‘packs’ of 1, 3 or 10 ‘wild dogs’ trying to catch the impala, to teach them about the benefits of cooperative hunting.  We also played other games with groups of boys and girls making packs, and then having to split up into single sex groups and run around until we shouted stop, at which point they had to quickly try to find a group of the other sex…. the mechanism (sort of!) by which wild dogs disperse and form new packs.  It was all a lot of fun and the kids were wildly enthusiastic.

Altogether we spoke to about 11 different schools, and I hope that those students will not forget what a special animal the wild dog is.  I must add my thanks to Netty Purchase and Phumizile Sibanda for organizing it all, and to Alliance Francaise for funding the program.