MARA Region is hosting a unique Environmental Education Centre (EEC) tipped to be best environmental training centre for secondary school students across East and Central Africa African states.
Strategically located in western Serengeti, EEC targets secondary students, who come from Serengeti and Bunda districts in the lake zone region. The districts host a large part of the world heritage of Serengeti National Park.
The major aim of EEC, which started accommodating students from the two districts in August 2009 is to impart both theoretical and practical skills on conservation to young men and women pursuing secondary education.
The facility was officially opened on 12 June 2009 by the former Minister of State in the Vice- Presidents Office in charge of Environment, Dr Batilda Burian who is currently serving as the Tanzanian Ambassador in the neighbouring Kenya. Since then it has enrolled 12 youths, who are accompanied by teachers after every five days.
So far a total 707 students have benefited from the environmental trainings offered at the centre which is designed to provide environmental and conservation education to youths in the two districts with some villages bordering Serengeti -ecosystem.
It was established by Singita Grumeti Fund (SGF) four years ago. The SGF is a non-profit making conservation and community development organization that receives funding from Singita Grumeti Reserves (SGR), which operates luxurious lodges in western Serengeti.
"We have managed to bring over 700 students and more than 200 teachers at the centre to date and we believe they are becoming good ambassadors of environmental conservation in their respective communities," said head of SGF's Outreach Community Department(COP) Mr Richard Ndaskoi. SGF has provided the visiting students and teachers with accommodation and food, according to Mr Ndaskoi.
Secondary school teachers have hailed SGF for establishing the centre predicting that it will turn hundreds of bright youths into good environmentalists in the districts. "The students have, for instance established a nursery for production of trees seedlings and a tree farms within our school compound after attending a training at the SGF centre," Mr James Sunge, the school headmaster of Rubana Secondary School in Bunda district said.
The programme, Mr Sunge said motivated youths to engage on environmental conservation activities in their communities. Ms Caroline Nelson, a teacher at Mugumu Secondary School in Serengeti District described the EEC as significant step towards development of conservation and environment sectors in western Serengeti. "In the past students did not know what conservation is all about, but now they know which type of trees to plant in which climate and what type of soil.
Those who are lucky to visit the SFG environmental education centre are now spreading the same education to other students. Plans are also underway to form environmental conservation groups (Malihai Clubs)", Ms Caroline told the 'Daily News' early this week.
According to the most recent report released by SGF, which operates under the Managing Director of Mr Brian Harris, a renowned conservationist shows that a total 23 secondary schools have sent hundreds of students to the EEC located Sasakwa foothill in Makundusi sub village to receive environmental and conservation training. Ten beneficiary schools are from Bunda district namely Rubana, Dr Nchimbi, Nyiendo, Bunda, Sazira, Sizaki, Kunzugu, Hunyari, Chamriho, Salama, Makongoro, Kizu and Mihingo.
The remaining 10 schools from Serengeti district are Mama Maria Nyerere, Rigicha, Nagusi, Issenye, Natta, Mugumu, Machochwe, Kisangura, Kambarage and Ikorongo . The report further indicates in 2011 each school that participated in the EEC training was educated on how to establish or maintain an environmental club (Malihai club). This has led to establishment 23 Malihai clubs with more than 4,000 members in the districts.
It is revealed in the report that EEC has also been supporting some schools to establish Malihai Clubs. For example, last year EEC assisted three schools of Ikorongo, Kambarage and Bunda with seedlings valued at 789,000/- and assisted seven more schools of Issenye Natta, Ikoma, Ikorongo, Ikizu, Kunzugu and Kilima with seeds, watering cans and other equipment valued at 3,085,000/-.
The EEC has also provided Issenye Secondary School conservation club with five modern beehives and Ikorongo Secondary School with three local beehives in collaboration with another COP department of Natural Resource Management and Conservation. At the same time Ikizu Secondary School conservation club received from the COP a contribution of 1.1m/- for a study tour to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority(NCAA) in September last year.
A total of 30 students and four teachers benefited from the study tour in the country's major tourist attractions visited by tourists from different parts of the world. Last year the EEC also supported sixty students from Natta and Nagusi secondary schools to participate on an essay and debate competition under the theme taped "Poverty in Tanzania is a source of Environmental destruction" in a bid to raise conservation awareness.
At the end of each course trainees set action plans basing on identified challenges within their localities. Through the action plan, small and medium size environmentally friendly projects are identified to uplift local economies and in 2010 a school community in Bunda initiated a tree nursery which generated US dollars 424 (about 615,000/- ).