People often ask why a conservation organization builds schools. For me, it’s an easy answer. Education is one of the primary ways to develop consciousness about how our actions impact the environment — both locally and globally. It is one of the most important means of empowering youth, engaging communities, fostering concern for wildlife and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources.
African Wildlife Foundation launched its Classroom Africa program in 2013 to provide rural communities access to a quality primary school education — and a strong incentive to engage in conservation. In return for a significant conservation commitment by a community, Classroom Africa rebuilds or upgrades a primary school, ensures ongoing teacher training, provides conservation education and, where feasible, offers students access to technology.
Education is not only a systematic approach to gaining knowledge, but it is also a source of empowerment. The unfortunate reality is a high percentage of individuals in rural Africa do not have access to a quality education and are being left behind. The highest rate of out-of-school children exists in sub-Saharan Africa — 9 million girls and 6 million boys between the ages of 6 and 11 will never attend school. Marginalization consistently impedes the education of female and rural students in Africa.
I first met Lisa two years ago, at the Lupani Community School in Zambia. A shy, intelligent fifth grader, she was working hard to keep up with her studies. Now, in grade 7, Lisa has just won first prize in a district-level social studies competition and is traveling to the provincial capital to represent her district at the regional level.