Over the past month CCF’s Education Department has been hard at work training the next generation of conservationists, as part of its Conservation Training and Mentorship Program (CTMP) for learners in grade 10 (year 10) this past month. With the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions early during the year in Namibia, CCF invited learners who participated and completed the first two phases of the CTMP in 2021 to its Research and Education Centre. Twenty-two teachers (one teacher from every participant’s school) were also invited. The first phase which took place from 23 August – 16 September 2021 was the outreach phase. CCF’s Annetjie Pöntinen and Ignatius Davids visited 2,972 learners from schools in the Oshana, Kunene, Kavango East and Kavango West regions to raise awareness on cheetahs and the role cheetahs and other predators play in Namibian ecosystems. This first phase also served as the promotion to get learners interested in the second phase. The second phase from 20 September – 15 November, focused on teaching learners about the cheetah in detail, its biology, ecology, human-cheetah conflict, CCF’s role in cheetah conservation, and what young people in Namibia can do to prevent cheetahs from becoming extinct. In this second phase, learners were taught about cheetahs using an online platform called Edmodo with presentations created on a multi-media platform called VoiceThreads. The third phase, also virtual, briefly exposed learners to careers in conservation.
The third phase culminated into a two-day workshop at CCF’s Research and Education Centre, and focused on a smaller group of learners who are interested in conservation as a career choice. A total of 96 learners and 22 teachers participated in the workshop. Participants were divided into three smaller regional groups which visited during different weekends in April 2022 and were hosted at CCF’s Lightfoot Camp. The workshop aimed at helping learners put into perspective some of what they had learned in the second phase (online) and to see the cheetah as not an abstract animal. Another objective of the workshop was for learners to see conservation in action and for them to meet the people working hard to ensure the cheetah will be around to be enjoyed and appreciated by future generations. Learners got to enjoy short presentations from various young CCF staff on how they got into conservation, with the aim of inspiring them to really consider conservation as a career, and that it does not matter what they want to become when they grow up because anyone anywhere can be a conservationist.
Students learned about working together as a team, and that conservation is not an isolated job or the job of one person. Everyone has a part to play and working together is vital. A team building exercise called ‘The Human Knot’ helped learners work together, think outside the box and come up with solutions (unravel the knot) to fix the problem (knot). This exercise showed learners that conservationists are constantly faced with challenges and they need to work together and to think outside the box and come up with solutions to overcome these challenges and that everyone has an important part to play in solving these challenges.
Most of all the learners and teachers had not seen a cheetah before this workshop. It was amazing to see the various reactions from both learners and teachers when the cheetah team exercised some of our resident cats. These are memories and experiences that we hope will last long enough for this training to have the desired impact on these young people.
Other activities included a scavenger hunt in the museum, visit to CCF’s Chewbaaka Memorial Garden, visit at The Model Farm and a hike up on Leopard Hill.
Participants received certificates of program completion at the end of the workshop. CCF’s Education Department is very proud of all the young people who completed this program and we hope to see them make meaningful contributions to conservation in Namibia, or maybe see some of them back here at CCF as interns or staff – the ultimate success of this program!
Participants completed a pre- and a post-workshop survey. The Education Department is in the process of entering and analysing this data with the aim to understand the impact of the CTMP on participants.
Thanks to the Anglo American grant through Ambassador for Good, CCF has continued to engage and teach young Namibians about cheetahs even through the most terrifying times of the COVID-19 pandemic through online programming. With this grant, CCF has reached and engaged about 5,000 learners from 10 regions and 63 schools during the 2020 and 2021 rounds of funding. We look forward to reaching learners in the remaining five regions if and when funding becomes available in 2022.