With funds raised from the Kilifi Gold Triathlon in September 2018 the planned education programme to bring in up to 2,000 local school children into the forest started at the beginning of the year with the first school, Bamba Kofi, coming in on Saturday 5th January 2019.
The programme is being run by Jamila Mohammed KWS education officer, Lynn Njeri KWS research officer and Roxie Davies an environmental educator from England who has volunteered eight weeks of her time for the project. FoASF is extremely grateful to AFEW who are covering all of Roxie’s expenses.
As of 26th February,1128 children have attended from 33 schools (30 primary and three secondary schools). The team has already visited an additional 11 schools to invite them to come along. All of these schools give priority to members of the schools current Wildlife Club to encourage the growth in their interest in nature and ecology.
The schools arrive at the Gede KWS Education Centre, where they are shown the short film created in 2018 by FoASF, followed by a talk from Madam Jamila. This talk gives background to the forest, when it was first protected and how important its location is on the Kenyan coast. It explains the huge diverse ecology of the forest, including species of medicinal trees, endemic birds, mammals and butterflies.
Special emphasis is given on the importance of managing the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest sustainably to maintain the ecosystem service benefits that the forest provides, such as clean air, clean water and a diverse habitat.
The final part of the talk focuses on the pressures and challenges that the forest faces and how the forest management teams and stakeholders apply different methods to reduce these pressures such as environmental education, patrols and eco-tourism projects.
The children are then driven just down from the Gede forest station to the Nature Trail where they are taken on a guided, sensory walk for roughly 45-50 minutes. During this walk, led by KWS Madam Jamila, they are given a game called ‘Forest Bingo’; this is a sheet with nine key species on that they are likely to encounter in the forest such as the buffalo-horned spider, the Golden-Rumped Elephant Shrew and a Cycad. This game was created to involve and encourage the children to look closer at the forest around them, and also inspire them to engage their senses, what can they smell, see and hear. They are given binoculars to take a closer look at birds or mammals that have been spotted. During this walk the children can listen individually to the ‘Sounds of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest’ soundtrack to increase the use of their senses while they are walking.
Once the walk has finished the children are the taken back to the forest station for biscuits, a banana and some water, they then do some drawing and writing at the Education Centre before returning to school.
All those that attend are asked participate in a competition for the best drawing or essay with a prize to the student and a certificate to the school and teacher. The winner will be announced at the end of the project.
To view a short film compiled of the school trips so far, please use the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OpXcVF48W8.
Since FoASF volunteer Roxie Davies returned to her job in the UK at the end of February 2019 no schools have visited the forest. The program is now under the directorship of KWS warden Madam Ntindi Kassim and the KWS education officer Madam Jamila Mohammed, who has been on leave. When the school exams and holidays are over the education officer will make plans to complete the student visits. The FoASF secretary will arrange payments for the expenses from the remaining budget.