Conflicts and disagreements between park managers (UWA) and the neighboring communities have existed ever since the gazetting of Bwindi Impenetrable National park. This is partly attributed to the limited local awareness of the forest’s environmental and conservation value. Environmental education offers one solution.
The environment and how to protect it has to be a central part of education and school curricula. For this reason, ITFC invited the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) who have a lot of experience with this in the region, to conduct environmental education training for primary school teachers near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It was just last week that we finally hosted a four-day workshop at our Conservation Education Center. We had 28 local teachers participating. The training was facilitated by three Canadian volunteers under the supervision of JGI’s Education Officer Aidan Asekenye.
The main aim of the workshop was to prepare the teachers to become champions for environmental conservation within their schools and wider communities. Teachers were also equipped with methods of infusing environmental education in the curricula of four primary school subjects (of Maths, English, Social studies and Science).
After taking a guided forest walk in Bwindi and later through the nearby community, teachers were asked to raise the key environmental issues and also suggest solutions to these issues. Among the challenges identified were poor waste disposal, declining water quality, poor farming methods, and a high human population density as a threat to the conservation of Bwindi.
Through a series of interactive discussions, the teachers were helped to come up with practical solutions not only to these issues but also to the other global environmental challenges like global warming, wildlife habitat loss,etc. Each teacher was given an opportunity to illustrate how best they could articulate these solutions into their daily lesson planning without necessarily teaching environmental education as an independent subject. After each presentation the audience were invited to suggest improvements to the proposed lesson plan, e.g. how could it be made more engaging and hands-on?
The workshop ended with each participant receiving a Teachers’ Guide Environmental Education information pack and a certificate of attendance. They also received an evaluation questionnaire which they shall post back after six months to document what they believe they have accomplished as a result of the training.
If we can raise the funding, we hope we can extend these activities to more schools and communities. We hope that the communities and park authorities will work more closely because they agree that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and their mountain gorillas should have a long-term future. That’s our vision. That’s what we work for.