Field Journal

World Teachers Day 2023: Meet teacher Simon, a champion for conservation education in Uganda

About the Author

Yvonne Ayesigye is AWF's Communications Assistant in Uganda. More


Kidepo is a beautiful and biodiverse region located in the extreme northeast of Uganda, nestled between the borders of South Sudan and Kenya. Despite its many attractions, this hidden gem remains relatively unknown and unexplored due to its remote location far from Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Unfortunately, literacy rates in Karamoja are quite low, with only 30% of those over the age of ten able to read and write, which has hindered the region's social and economic development.

Due to high levels of illiteracy and slow economic and social development, conservation efforts may face obstacles. It is evident that successful wildlife conservation demands a multifaceted approach. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) advocates for wildlife leadership, coexistence, and protection through measures such as establishing protected areas, consistent monitoring, and protection, and enforcing wildlife laws. However, these efforts cannot flourish without a literate population.

Children who grow up in remote villages often rely on natural resources for their livelihoods, which can harm wildlife and the environment. However, providing these children with quality education can help them understand the value of nature and make more sustainable choices. AWF's Classroom Africa Program in 2020 built and launched two new schools, Kidepo Primary School and Sarachom, which have attracted highly qualified teachers. These teachers play a crucial role in promoting literacy and knowledge in their communities. Today, AWF joins the global celebration of teachers, recognizing their dedication to educating future generations both inside and outside of the classroom under the theme "The teachers we need for the education we want: The global imperative to reverse the teacher shortage”.

Top schools often attract the brightest teachers, leaving those in remote areas at a disadvantage. AWF strives to change this paradigm by offering key incentives such as free and suitable housing options for teachers at schools we support. Simon Peter Omer, a teacher at Sarachom Primary School for the past eight years, is a beneficiary of AWF's support. In his 15-year journey as a teacher, he has found fulfillment despite it not being his originally planned career path. We sat down with him for an in-depth candid conversation about his journey thus far.

Tell us about your 15-year journey in the teaching profession.


To be honest, I had always wanted to become a lawyer and defend those who couldn't defend themselves. Unfortunately, financial difficulties cut short my dream. My father was a church catechist, and we simply couldn't afford the cost of a law degree. So, I decided to pursue a diploma in teaching at the National Teachers' College in Gulu district, which I could afford by working at various construction sites. When I completed my course, I was grateful to have a profession and hoped that others would step up to help the 'defenseless'. Since then, I have fully embraced my new calling.

I've been a teacher since 2008 and in 2015, I started working at Sarachom Primary School. At the time, the school only offered classes up to primary five due to limited facilities. Our teaching staff consisted of eight (8) teachers, but we have since grown to fifteen (15). As a teacher from the Teso region, I had to share a room with a colleague to be close to the school and teach on time. Fortunately, my shared room was only 100 meters away from the school. Other teachers had to walk or ride bikes 10-15 kilometers to get to and from school. In 2017, AWF intervened and built a library, staff room, and staff quarters at the school, making it easier for teachers to travel to and from school. They also built additional classroom blocks, allowing us to offer classes up to primary seven. By 2020, the school was fully registered with the Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB) center Number. Teachers now have more time to spend at the school, and in 2021, Sarachom Primary School ranked as the best school in the district for Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).

What role have you played in conserving mother nature?

Thanks to AWF's assistance, our team received training on conservation techniques and learned how to educate our pupils on the importance of conservation. As the Patron of the Wildlife Club of Uganda at Sarachom, I oversee a group of 70 members. Although these children have grown up near wildlife, few have had the opportunity to witness the beauty of animals like elephants, zebras, and lions in their natural habitat at Kidepo Park. With support from AWF, we organized educational tours for our students to experience the tranquility of wildlife in an undisturbed ecosystem. Additionally, we received books that aid in teaching our pupils about wildlife and why it is crucial to protect it.

What is your message to fellow teachers in biodiversity-rich landscapes?

After 15 years of teaching, I can confidently say that it has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. Witnessing the impact of the knowledge that I have imparted on my pupils and how it has changed their lives over the years brings me immense joy. As teachers, we play a vital role in our students' lives since they spend almost half of their time in school. Therefore, I urge all of us to stress the importance of conservation both in and out of the classroom. It is vital to remember that we depend on the environment for our survival; for instance, we receive oxygen from plants and give them carbon dioxide. As such, we must maintain this balance, and teachers must play their educational role in this regard. Finally, I would like to wish all the teachers a happy celebration.