Written by: Beate Apfelbeck
Chimala is a small town in the south west of Tanzania, where my husband and I spend the first six months of every year doing field work on a small songbird called the stonechat. On one of our trips a friend of ours, who teaches at a local primary school, invited us to the school for a cultural exchange and we have been visiting Chimala Primary School ever since.
In 2013 we decided the time is ripe and we founded the Chimala Wildlife Conservation Club. It was an immediate success. Since then, whenever we are in Chimala, we meet our 25 students every Saturday for regular classes about wildlife, ecosystems and nature conservation. The students follow our classes with great enthusiasm and usually we can choose from 25 fingers shooting into the air to answer our questions.
Most of the students have been members of the wildlife club from the start. It is great to see them growing up. Take, for example, Vanessa. She was only in grade two when she joined the club. A small and shy little girl who never missed a class. She was recently elected student leader of the club!
Apart from lessons, we also partake in other activities. We take the students out for bird-watching, we plant trees and we set up a garden for the school. Last year, we also went to the zoo in Mbeya. Of course, this is nothing compared to a national park but it was a great opportunity for the kids to see some of the animals we talk so often during classes. Many Tanzanians have never actually seen the “Big Five”!
One of the things that the students get especially excited about is when we watch wildlife documentaries on our three laptops. The school teaches about modern communication technologies, but only in theory. Most of the students had never handled a computer before. They take turns to operate the laptops. It is amazing how fast they learn!
The more time we spend in Chimala, the more we become aware of how the environment is being destroyed there. Large trees are disappearing from the forests. Water-intensive rice-farming and large cattle herds affect the Great Ruaha river ecosystem.
Many people in Chimala are subsistence farmers and barely make enough money to feed their families. In their struggle for a better life they, quite understandably, often forget about the value and importance of nature. Although most children visit primary school, the educational level at the Chimala Primary School is not very high and the school lacks electricity, school materials and teachers. During the harvest, many children miss school because they have to help in the fields.
To give this opportunity to more students of the school and improve our Wildlife Club, we are saving up for a solar power generator to run the school’s laptops and computers. This is only the first step along a long road. If you would like to help click here.