For many years we have been discussing the fact that we need to protect what we have for the future generations who will be in this world long after we have left. It is important to keep young minds informed as to the importance of the environment and its existence.
Through the vision and dedication of Adine and the help of an amazing group of veterinarian students from Onderstepoort, we took to Mpisi Primary School under the banner of Lessons in Conservation (LIC) to share this message with 20 of their grade 7 learners.
From the moment the HERD team met with the students from LIC, the time seemed to fly by so quickly but what an eventful weekend it was. We had arranged with Never, the Mpisi School principal for 20 Grade 7 students to meet us at Mpisi Primary at the end of April, and what a success story it turned out to be.
Our own conservations students and staff were there to watch LIC in action, with learning, games and so much more. The LIC students showed an enormous amount of passion for what they are teaching. Their energy and willingness to teach is infectious. For a majority of the children who attended the LIC lessons, many had never heard of an ecosystem, biome or any of the other conservation concepts which were taught to them over the coming days.
Each lesson was first explained in theory and then played out in a game to ensure that the little learners could understand, by way of examples, the importance of what was being taught.
It was impressive to see how the lessons are structured and carried out in order to get the message across in the simplest yet most effective way. After the lessons were completed, we arrived at the school early in the morning to collect the children and bring them to see HERD – to discover who we are and what it is that we do.
Together with the LIC students, we awaited the arrival of the children with much excitement. Transport was provided with the assistance of Badger Tracks and Jabulani – whom we would like to thank for all their hard work which went towards making this day a huge success.
One important question posed to the children during the day’s lessons was: Have you ever seen a wild animal? 98% answered “No!” This number is alarming if you consider that the majority of the people in the local communities work at lodges close to or in wilderness parks or reserves, and yet their children have never experienced this for themselves. The teacher whom we had spoken to the previous day at Mpisi School confirmed that she too had never seen a wild animal before. So as you can well imagine, the children arrived very excited, having had the most amazing drive in through the Kapama Private Game Reserve. Impala, Zebra, Wildebeest to name but a few species which they told us they had seen on their way in.
HERD elephant carers, Godknows and Shepherd were ready to show them what they had come all the way to us to experience with a brief introduction to HERD. The children were split into three groups, the LIC members split themselves between the groups, and then the time came to introduce three of the bulls in the Jabulani herd to some very eager but extremely nervous children.
From the sidelines, as Sebakwe neared the wall, most of the children would back further away as he got closer, wide eyes looked on in awe of this grey giant as he approached them. To think how lucky we are to have this everyday and to see these majestic giants in person. It is humbling to share a part of our lives with the future generation. Slowly, the children settled down and became a little braver , walking forward just close enough to place food in Sebakwe’s trunk, but ensuring they stayed far enough away so as not to be in reach.
By the time we swopped the groups between the elephants, the children had managed to calm right down and were now taking the opportunity of being able to get closer to the elephants. Although some still remained nervous others took it in their stride to feel the long thick hairs on the elephant trunk and touch the tusks to feel the smoothness of them.
For many, this would be a once in a lifetime experience. For some, this would become a chance at getting into the life of conservation and to one day walk in the footsteps of many other elephant carers, rangers, lodge staff, and conservationists before them. This is what LIC hopes will be the outcome of their lessons and even if just one or two out of the 20 students one day make it into a field where they help to protect their heritage, it is a step in the right direction.
We would like to thank LIC for their hard work over the three days with us and we look forward to many more lessons in conservation through a strong partnership and united goal. Together, we can make a difference.