I remember when I was leading a school expedition in Uganda a few years back, we were working on a community project in the remote Rwenzori mountains and a girl in the group asked a local girl, of a similar age, how she got to school every day:
- I walk.
- How long does it take you?
- 2 Hours. Each way.
- And she did it barefoot.
The girl in my group was astonished. Wow, she said to me, I thought my 20-minute bus ride was a hassle and I cannot believe she wants to go to school that much! There and then, with that simple exchange, I could see her gaining perspective of her own life and admiration for this girl, her peer from a very different background.
A couple of weeks later, on the last day of the trip we did a review session of highlights and the girl mentioned this encounter and said she would resolve to be ‘more appreciative, positive and work harder at school’.
Obviously, these experiences have been inaccessible for the last couple of years, due to the pandemic. Young people can, and have had to, explore the world from their screens but so many do not get an authentic experience of the world and its people.
However, cultural interaction is an incredibly powerful tool in enabling young people to have positive, authentic experiences and thereby engaging them in positive global citizenship.
As an industry our challenge now, more than ever, is to make these experiential experiences as accessible as possible to everyone.
I was on a Zoom call (obviously) recently with our base at Olifants River Camp in the Greater Kruger area of South Africa and behind my colleagues was a river and the African bush. An elephant wandered into view in the background, he headed to the water, to take on some morning liquid refreshment. I must admit to not employing my best listening skills on this meeting!
Because we have permanent bases and full-time staff living and working at project bases across Africa, we have developed a Global Awareness programme. Students can speak live and directly from their classrooms, with our expert staff and communities across Africa and engage with real-world issues. They might even spot one of the Big 5!
The programme allows students to engage with the challenges around human/wildlife conflict in Kruger, as an example. Or develop their understanding of the challenges their peers face in terms of gender equality in Zambia. For example, there are 16.7 million girls out of primary school education in sub-Saharan Africa. The programme comes with ready-made teaching resources and also includes case studies on gender equality and environmental sustainability.
Tim Douglas is Business Development Manager for African Impact Education. https://africanimpacteducation.com/
Our Global Awareness Programme, is an educational course, delivered In-Class or in Africa