Lolesha Luangwa's education centre is fully open for buisnes
(This article was originally published in the Horn, autumn 2016. Author: Claire Lewis, Technical Advisor, North Luangwa Conservation Project)
It’s been a labour of love, and taken longer than we wanted, but the doors are finally open for the Lolesha Luangwa education centre. The construction and fit out has been a multi-donor project over many years and it’s still evolving, but everything we had down on paper is now a reality.
We’ve wanted to bring school children into North Luangwa National Park (NLNP) for many years, but had neither the vehicle nor facilities to transport or house the trips. So the fundraising began and, thanks to USFWS, in 2013 we bought ex-overland safari truck to which we added seatbelts and a PA system so we could safely deliver the children into the Park, down the Muchinga escarpment. The visits began in the dry season 2014, but it soon became apparent the facilities we had were inadequate for the scale of the trips. Each visit brings in 2 teachers and 20 school children, a Department of National Parks and Wildlife officer, and a cook, each needing a bed, feeding and bathroom facilities. The tired old rondavel chalets we had were cramped and dark, and the two wood-fired showers struggled to cope with the volume of showering at the end of hot and dusty days.
So we began another round of fundraising to upgrade services – a new borehole and water tank, a 200-litre solar geyser and a huge solar panel set up with deep-cycle battery bank for lighting and plug points. We designed a new layout for a purpose-built Lolesha Luangwa education centre incorporating two dormitories (girls and boys) with five bunk beds in each, complete with mattresses, mosquito nets, and animal-print bed linen. New showers and toilets were built, as were individual rooms for the teachers, DNPW officer and cook. While we were at it, we included a new room for the Lolesha Luangwa officers, Sylvester and Michael, a store with shelving and solar powered deep freezer, a dining area, a kitchen prep area and an outdoor (traditional) kitchen nsaka with fuel-efficient stoves. Phew!
But although the best teaching resource is surely the Park itself, we needed to create a space for more formal sessions within the choreography of the visits. We had a building that had been used variously as a teaching space, temporary accommodation, store room, anything really, but the bottom line was that it was big enough to house an office, store and classroom for the LL visits. It needed some TLC and refitting – new roof and insulation, replastering, removal and redesigning of windows, and smashing out some old cupboarding – but once all that was done we were ready for some real creative input.
Vic Guhrs, a friend and long-time Luangwa Valley resident, kindly offered his services to paint the classroom. Vic is a renowned wildlife artist and we are very lucky he’s doing this for us. His style and intimate knowledge of the wildlife and landscape of North Luangwa means he is able to capture the light and colours so well that the views through the windows perfectly match the painted walls. The room has been designed to flow from the doorway (village) through rivers and waterways on the left-hand wall with people fishing and washing, to forests and the escarpment on the right showing firewood collection and caterpillar harvesting, to the National Park full of animals on the opposite wall. Elements of the Lolesha Luangwa curriculum have been included in the paintings to aid Sylvester’s teaching and provoke discussion from the school children.
As this edition of The Horn goes to press, we are about to receive Ruth Desforges, from the Zoological Society of London, who mentors and supports the monitoring and evaluation of Lolesha Luangwa, to go through the room, the resources and the school trips to refine, refocus and refresh the formal sessions to better use the room and give us some more ideas on an interactive teaching and learning space.
Thanks and grants
Since November 2015, we have sent £3,664 raised by 3 Artillery staff members who ran the London Marathon in 2015, €738 from rhino's energy, $20,000 from Disney Conservation Fund, £2,000 from Ales Weiner and $22,780 from USFWS RTCF. Previous grants from Disney, USFWS, the de Brye Charitable Trust and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund also contributed to the development of the education centre. We are very grateful to Alex Rhind, who produced the early visuals for the centre’s wall murals, and to Vic Guhrs who did the actual painting. Thanks also to Ruth Desforges and ZSL for its input into the programme.
We are thrilled that Sylvester Kampamba, the Lolesha Luangwa Education Officer, came third in the Rhino Conservation Awards’ category for “Best Education, Awareness and Fundraising.” Congratulations to Sylvester, and not forgetting Michael Eliko, Lolesha Luangwa Schools Officer, and Claire Lewis, who together make the programme such a success.