The Wilderness Wildlife Trust has strong links with Children in the Wilderness (CITW) which is an innovative programme that aims to educate the youth of Africa, educating, inspiring and assisting them with the life skills necessary to actualise their greatest potential. In addition, as most of the children chosen for the Children in the Wilderness programmes are living on the boundaries of Wilderness Safaris properties and camps, it focuses on building an awareness of and responsibility for their beautiful natural heritage.
Zimbabwe used to have one of the best education systems in Southern Africa; however with the instability of Zimbabwean politics, education has paid the price. Good teachers have emigrated, looking for greener pastures and jobs, and those left behind lack motivation due to appalling teaching conditions – no materials to perform their duties satisfactorily, and very poor remuneration. Moreover, attendance of children to schools is extremely poor due to lack of nutrition – often combined with the distances they must walk to school from home.
It was decided that instead of establishing a Follow-up Programme from the first CITW camps, CITW Zimbabwe would be better off going back to the source and helping the children in their communities and in their schools. From this came the birth of our feeding and school rehabilitation programmes.
In addition to the yearly Children in the Wilderness programmes, Children in the Wilderness Zimbabwe has been able to offer scholarships to students who have shown real potential. Currently 62 pupils of the 65 scholarships offered live on the boundaries of Hwange National Park. Another project is a dedicated feeding scheme which provides around 790 children with a meal a day – this has been essential given the malnourished state of the local community.
The four schools in which CITW Zimbabwe is involved are Ziga, Mpindo, Kapane and Ngamo. All are situated on the south-eastern border of the Hwange National Park, close to four Wilderness camps. A number of children from these villages have attended Children in the Wilderness camps.
Ziga Water Supply
Without water, education becomes secondary!
The Wilderness Wildlife Trust was approached by CITW Zimbabwe to help sink a borehole for the school with the aim to provide fresh water for the purposes of health, diet and cleanliness. Not only would fresh water keep the children and their teachers hydrated, but it would enhance the feeding scheme currently in progress at the school.
In addition, with the help of CITW, the community was taught the concept of “Trench Gardening”. This is a simple and innovative idea where vegetables are grown on a compost heap where decomposing vegetation holds moisture and slowly breaks down to feed the vegetables with nutrients that promote healthy plant growth. Therefore the borehole provides water for this, allowing for healthy growth of vegetables for the wellbeing and nutrition of the children and the local community.
In order for the schools and communities to contribute to the feeding project and to take responsibility for their people we have introduced vegetable gardens to supplement our feeding programme. The ultimate aim is to get the communities to take ownership of these projects and help themselves. Children in the Wilderness sends in the expertise, seeds and equipment and have rehabilitated or established boreholes at all four schools.
Vehicle for visits to Tsholotsho District Schools
The Wilderness Wildlife Trust was approached by Children in the Wilderness Zimbabwe for funding for a 4x4 vehicle. This vehicle will be dedicated for school visits throughout the year to monitor the students on the scholarship programme. Another important aspect of the vehicle’s use is to provide transport of materials for the feeding programme. This vehicle will also provide transport for teacher training workshops and environmental club visits within the district as well as various community programmes in progress. The vehicle will be based at Wilderness Safaris’ Linkwasha Camp and will travel from camp to the various villages.
Other projects that are on the go in each of these schools:
1. Feeding programme
In order to improve the attendance rate at the schools and help the hungry children, CITW decided not to implement a follow-up programme with the children from previous camps – which is the normal order of events – but to rather reach out to many by providing a nutritious meal for every child at the schools CITW supports, every school day of the year. 430 children were fed in 2009 and 790 in 2010.
After a generous donation from a Wilderness Safaris guest, the feeding programme is able to feed another school of children in the Victoria Falls area. The donation will provide Jabulani School with food for a year.
2. Teacher Support
Over the past years it has been a struggle to find teachers – at one stage there was only the headmaster at Ziga to teach 190 children, as qualified teachers had gone on strike. CITW first pulled in the help of O and A level school leavers to teach under instruction from the headmasters and paid their wages. Qualified teachers began to return, and their wages were supplemented by CITW.
Teachers’ training programmes have been implemented over the past year. An example was the programme that brought environmental science alive. A comprehensive curriculum was provided for each teacher, consisting of lesson notes and practical exercises as well as training and ideas for teachers.
3. Improvement of Facilities and Education Tools
A full survey of Mpindo, Ziga, Kapane and Ngamo schools was done to establish the enormity of the rehabilitation of these schools’ facilities. This incorporated the buildings, classroom equipment, text books and stationery.
The schools received various items of stationery which included exercise books, rulers, pencils, pens, erasers, sharpeners, and chalk. Textbooks were distributed to Ngamo, Mpindo and Ziga and Kapane as well as textbooks for Ngamo High School. (This will help the students on the scholarship programme.)
The Wilderness Wildlife Trust has provided additional funding for this programme for 2012.
After a generous donation from a Wilderness Safaris guest, the feeding programme is able to feed another school of children, this time in the Victoria Falls area. Funds have been committed to feeding the children – and teachers – one meal per every school day for 2012 at Jabulani School. This will assist in improving the health, diet and wellbeing of the children and teachers at this village school. A vegetable garden, borehole and educating the children on Trench Gardening is also being looked at for Jabulani.
The refurbishment and rebuilding of the classrooms is now complete, and the new borehole is fully functional, plus Ziga School recently received new desks and chairs for the new Grade One classroom.
The results of the feeding programme, the availability of fresh water and all our efforts became evident when, for the first time in its history, Ziga Primary School received two awards – one for the Best Grade 7 results for a small rural school in Matabeleland, and the other for the “Most Enterprising School”.
The borehole is functioning extremely well and water is being pumped for brick moulding purposes. This is a huge labour saving, as previously water had to be carried by the bucket on the heads of villagers from a borehole 2km away. The vegetable garden will be started at the beginning of term and will soon be supplementing the nutrition programme. In addition, foundations for a new classroom block have been dug and brick moulding is close to completion. Building will then commence and we hope the children will be in their classrooms by the middle of July.