SUPPORTING LITERACY & ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING IN ZAMBIA
Born Free’s Global Friends programme is having a big impact, encouraging young people to learn about wild animals, as Head of Education Laura Gosset reports.
Born Free’s Global Friends Programme has been running since 2003 and over that time has supported projects in nine countries, benefitting tens of thousands of people.
One such project is the Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust, working to teach children and communities to value wildlife in Zambia. We recently heard from their Founding Director, Anna Tolan, who described how their engaging children’s wildlife magazine is supporting learning in Zambia, with Born Free’s support.
We probably all know from first-hand experience that reading is the most crucial part of a child’s education and how it enhances their knowledge. In fact, Barack Obama summed it up eloquently in these few words, ‘Reading is the gateway for children that makes all other learning possible’.
It is also widely evidenced that reading in children promotes brain development and imagination, improves concentration and memory, develops language and emotions, strengthens relationships, reduces stress and improves mental health. Nonetheless, most children in rural Zambia don’t own a book. Not a single book. They also generally don’t have access to televisions, computers, smart phones, newspapers or magazines. Even text books in schools are scarce.
It may be difficult for many people around the world to imagine a life with practically no reading material. Yet Zambian children are hungry to learn and it is humbling to witness how eagerly they snap up the opportunity to read whenever it is presented to them. They also treasure any pictures that help them to better understand the fast changing and highly challenging world that they are growing up in.
It is against this background that Kalata for Kids was developed by Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust in Zambia (in collaboration with PAKO Kids Magazine in Namibia). We had long wanted to extend the reach of our Conservation Education in Schools programme – and what better way than through an educative children’s magazine that focuses on wildlife and the natural environment.
Once the seed of the project was sown in early 2021, it became essential to source the funding for the printing of the magazines to enable its success. We are immensely grateful for Born Free’s encouragement of the project from the outset and their kind decision to financially support it.
“It is also widely evidenced that reading in children promotes brain development and imagination, improves concentration and memory, develops language and emotions, strengthens relationships, reduces stress and improves mental health. Nonetheless, most children in rural Zambia don’t own a book. Not a single book.”
Kalata in Chinyanja (the local language in the area of South Luangwa where Chipembele focuses its work) means ‘a letter’. Although there is no direct translation of the English word ‘magazine’, Kalata aptly describes the written and illustrated communication in magazine format that is hand delivered to as many as 2,300 Zambian school children each quarter.
Chipembele’s four Community Conservation Educators deliver the 24-page magazines on bicycles to 19 Government schools in the area and distribute them individually to the children in our Conservation Clubs. The magazine is aimed at 8–15-year-olds, though it is shared widely among friends and family and we know that a lot of adults enjoy reading it too.
It includes a range of articles on Zambian wildlife, conserving the global environment and caring for pets, as we believe that instilling respect for and interest in wild animals starts at home. There are also some fun puzzles and games and a bespoke ‘Chippy’ cartoon rhino who appears on most pages. The feedback from the students has been phenomenal, which doesn’t really come as much of a surprise – just imagine having your very own children’s magazine to pore over when there’s nothing else at all to read at home!
The magazine has had a big impact: Usher Phiri, Year 7 at Mfuwe Primary School said, ‘Through Kalata I get to know more about animals. I know the giraffe here is called Thornicroft’s and a group of walking giraffes is called a journey.’ Prince Sakala, Year 6 at Mfuwe Primary School said, ‘Thanks to Kalata I’ve learnt so much about animals and how to conserve them.’
However, in order to provide professionally conducted evidence of the impact of the magazine we have been carrying out monitoring and evaluation on the programme, the results of which will be available at the end of 2022. We are currently preparing issue 7 and hope to be able to continue with producing and distributing Kalata for Kids long into the future.”