By Nabila Khouri
At the Noloholo Environmental Center on the Maasai Steppe in Tanzania, the environmental education staff of the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) are creating a curriculum to teach the children of nearby Loibor Siret Primary School how to use a computer.
In April of this year, a laptop computer, printer and solar panel were donated to the school by the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative sister school, Hill Freedman World Academy. It is the first computer at a government school in the area, and to many teachers and most students, the first computer they have ever seen.
Although human and big cat conflict remains a prominent issue in this part of the Steppe, with environmental education the next generation will come to understand the cost of losing the big cats in the area. Only recently, a poisoning of a pride of lions occurred in the Steppe. Although the perpetrator was arrested and charged with the crime, this does not bring back the lives lost. Six lions were killed, as well as a hyena when a farmer retaliated after lions killed several of his cows. Sadly, if one of our unique predator-proof bomas – Living Walls – had been in place, the tragedy could have been avoided. Our big cat conflict officers have installed 228 Living Walls in six villages all over the Steppe. These living walls have helped to protect more than 50,000 head of livestock on a nightly basis, keeping many people and big cats safe. But, we obviously still need more.
At APW, we have always been motivated by environmental education, and its potential to help emphasize the importance of big cats in the ecosystem. Therefore, we hope that the use of the donated computer can help the children to discover and learn more about the incredible wildlife in their own backyards. Once the teachers at Loibor Siret Primary School have learned how to use the computer, they will then teach the students; a privilege that many children in the area won’t have unless they go to a private secondary school. In the future, the children will be able to research big cats online with the help of APW’s environmental education officers and Noloholo Environmental Scholars. And, they’ll come to understand just how sad the loss of those six lions is.
With the support of the National Geographic Big Cats Intiative and other partners and individuals, the African People and Wildlife Fund currently sponsors 16 students – Noloholo Scholars – so they can attend a private secondary school in Monduli, Tanzania. The students are from several villages and communities, on the Steppe, including Loibor Siret.
Husain Maricha has been a scholar for one year and is already thinking about becoming a wildlife biologist.
“After visiting Tarangire National Park last year I saw many animals and thought about how wonderful it would be to study them,” he said.
Although Husain still has time to decide what animal he would like to study, he already has one in mind.
“I love lions and I think it would be good to study them. They are very beautiful and proud, and I like that about them,” Husian said.
Husain isn’t the only scholar with big dreams after graduating from the Moringe Secondary School. Many of the scholars would like to attend university and are confident in their abilities to become future engineers, doctors and biologists. As we expand the reach of the Maasai Steppe Big Cats Conservation Initiative, we know our work will continue to inspire and motivate many more children and communities on the Steppe to protect the big cats, one individual, one community at a time.
Nabila Khouri is an intern with the African People and Wildlife Fund.