Category Archives: Environmental Education

ASSETS Quiz Semi Final

On Friday, the ASSETS Inter-school Quiz wagon rolled into Bogamachuko, for the western forest semi-final between Boga and Malanga Primary Schools. Both schools had come strongly through their first round matches and were confident prior at the start of the quiz.

Indeed, it proved to be a titanic battle. Both teams were answering the majority of questions correctly, and when one team gave ground to the other, the deficit was swiftly recovered in the next round.

Quick-fire questions on General Knowledge, Environment and Health opened the quiz, before the pace was changed with a round that required students to create as many words as possible from the word ‘Elephant’. Ultimately the round that changed things was ‘Spell Check’, in the style of a Spelling Bee. Students were given a word and a sentence to contextualise it, and were then asked to spell the word. This is where Malanga began to open up a lead, gaining 13 points on Boga. Ultimately this advantage proved to be unassailable, and although Boga were able to make small gains in the ‘Bird Anatomy’ and ‘Water Cycle’ round, Malanga held their own in the other quick-fire question rounds and the Crossword game.


Team Malanga


Team Boga

So it is Malanga who will be making the trip to the other side of the forest on November 14th, to meet Mijomboni Primary school in the Quiz Final at Turtle Bay Beach Club on the coast in Watamu. The final will constitute the last part of a Local Ocean Day, a day designed to engage local schools and community groups of Watamu in fun beach-based activities and increase levels of enthusiasm and education in the health of the ocean environment. We hope that there will therefore be a great audience for the quiz and that the finalists receive the support that their efforts deserve.

Anti-bushmeat to local schools.

The last week saw two trips to local schools to bring them a lesson aimed at educating the children in the dangers of trapping and eating bushmeat . At Roka Primary School, around 100 children from all classes crammed into the classroom, whilst at Ngala Girls Secondary School we addressed around 30 students from the school’s Wildlife Club.

So what is bushmeat? And why are we telling kids that eating it is a problem? Essentially, bushmeat is the flesh of any wild animal, such as antelope, mongoose and duicker.

The trapping and consumption of bushmeat in Kenya is a problem for many reasons. Firstly, the practice is illegal, and anyone caught hunting or setting traps can face a penalty of up to 8 years imprisonment. On a more environmental level, the indiscriminate use of snares (the primary method of catching bushmeat) is non-selective in the animals caught, and can have serious impacts on local wildlife populations. In places such as the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, where species such as the Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew are extremely endangered, such poaching has the potential to be disastrous. In addition, the meat from animals trapped can possibly harbour lethal diseases, such as anthrax and…??. All meat sold in Kenya should be checked and stamped by health officers; bushmeat caught in snares goes without those standard checks and consumption can be particularly harmful to one’s health.

We were working closely with Patrick, the local Bushmeat Control Officer, who came along to contribute to the teaching and show a video. This is a film made by a local production company and has the advantage of being in Kiswahelli, making it easier for the children to follow the plot. The story follows the fortunes of a family who’s main source of protein is through bushmeat, but who are struggling due to dwindling populations, which they think is as a result of mass-market poachers. One day, the father traps an antelope, causing a family-wide celebration. However, their lucky day takes a turn for the worse when they begin to discover first-hand the tragic consequences of eating bush meat.

At Roka, over 100 enthusiastic children crammed into the classroom to see the movie. The children were kept in rapt attention by the drama and love-story sub-plots, and we hope many will take the lessons learned back to their families and communities.

Kids at Roka Primary

Roka children queue for pencil gifts

Quizzes on the Far Side of the Forest

On Friday, a group of us took the trip to one of the furthest reaches of the ASSETS network, to facilitate a quiz between two primary schools – Malanga and Girimacha – on the eastern side of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest. This was the first round of the competition for the two schools, hoping to beat off the competition and secure a semi-final place against Boga,   also from the east side of the forest. The ultimate goal is a spot in the Inter-ASSETS Primary Schools Quiz Final, to be held in Watamu at Turtle Bay Beach Club in mid-November.

The competition was stiff and the 5 competitors from each school battled hard, eagerly cheered on by their classmates in the audience. The range of questions was wide, and the rounds fast paced, with the children being asked to answer questions on a wide range of subjects. One moment, they were being asked to name the Minister for Tourism in Kenya, the next they were required to name two ways to prevent the spread of cholera. 


The Malanga team

Ultimately, after 8 rounds of quick-fire questions and a comprehension task, it was Malanga who prevailed, proving strongest on many of the topics faced. Girimacha, however, were magnanimous in defeat, knowing that the primary aim of the quiz had at least been achieved and everyone had learned a lot. Somehow, the whole class fitted in the back of the truck and they sang all the way back to the village. Malanga, on the other hand, are extremely excited to continue another step along the ‘Road to Turtle Bay’ and now have two weeks to study hard and prepare as much as possible before the much-anticipated semi-final against Boga.


Girimacha head back home

Invaders from the North

At a few minutes past midnight on Tuesday morning Mwamba was taken over by a Finish invasion. 16 students, their teachers and driver arrived from the University of Helsinki. They’re travelling each day to Arabuko Sokoke, Mida Creek and as far as Dakatcha Woodlands to study the local geography and botany.

Unfortunately, on the way here their car broke down outside Tsavo Park and they were delayed by several hours. It was a strange experience to go to bed only to be woken up a short while later by Laurence, our night watchman. Then we got busy serving up meat, rice and salad to a dining room full of travellers who were very tired but still hungry at midnight!

We’ll continue in the Mwamba tradition of welcoming guests from all over the world next week when a similar sized group arrives from the USA.

Spreading the conservation net

On Tuesday a 5 day journey began for the Assets team across the Arabuko Sokoke Forest region. The purpose was to meet with as many of the Assets beneficiaries as possible for conservation classes. These classes are compulsory for those who want to receive the bursaries and ensure that the students understand why they receive them by learning about the dangers to their local environment. It’s also a good time to hand over report forms and discuss academic progress. Stanley and the team are working flat out and camping overnight in order to be at the schools early in the morning. If you want to find out more about AssetHolding up the Net.JPGs beneficiaries days or anything else about Assets please visit www.assets-kenya.org

Albert holding up a bird ringing net during the class

Nyari the Champions

Friday 21st November saw the final of the Inter-schools quiz for the Asset schools Wildlife Clubs. Tsofa devised various rounds with questions on conservation and other topics such as English, agriculture and a word puzzle.

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Mijomboni school arrived as definite favourites and were surprised when Nyari took the lead. The standard was high on both sides with members of the audience having the chance to answer any questions that the teams could not. The highlight was a debate where pupils had to think of arguments for and against clearing the Arabuko Sokoke forest. Nyari were eventually victorious by just 4 points.

There were plenty of prizes to go around and a feast of snacks before the children left for their school holidays. Well done to all the participants and a Merry Christmas.

Day 3 of the Camp – talks on drugs and saying goodbye

Our last day dawned bright and early with more Morning Glory, breakfast and then an excellent talk from a worker from the local ‘Imani drug rehabilitation Centre.’ He explained the science behind the addiction and how you get hooked and well as the realities of rehab and being strong about avoiding drugs in school and at home. There were many questions from students with some even wanting to talk about other, non-drug related problems.

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Drug Awareness Talk

Our last activity was a trip to Mida Creek. This was a first time for me as well as the students and it was beautiful, despite the intermittent rain when we sheltered under trees!
Students on Walkway at Mida
Students on Walkway at Mida

You may know that A Rocha Kenya as built a hanging walkway through the mangrove forest as an eco-tourism attraction at Mida Creek. It raises money for ASSETS through Tourists coming and paying to use the walkway. Alex and Said, two of the guides, were very knowledgeable about the Mangrove ecosystem and the students had a great time on the walkway!

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Some of the girls with Said at Mida

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Boys outside the bird hide at Mida

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Some of the Students on the Walkway

The camp has now come to an end but the students go away with a wealth of new experiences and information about life, the environment and conservation. Hopefully they have been encouraged to keep on going and their confidence has been increased.

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Lydia, the most active girl

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 John, the most active boy.

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Group photo on steps of Mwamba!

Assets Students arrive for the first Assets camp 2008

Day 1

Twenty Assets students trickled shyly into Mwamba during the course of the morning of 12th August, unaware of the packed three day programme we had in store for them. Tsofa kicked the camp off with introductions, explanations, camp rules and started the ongoing camp competition, whereby the students were divided into two teams. Throughout the three days there would be different challenges and question times when the teams could win points. The first days activities included a guided walk through the nature trail with Jonathan Baya – who used his skills to explain about the importance of natural life – focusing particularly on trees and Stanley has led a discussion about the realities of why parents want their children to have a good education and the challenges of being in, and staying in, school; school fees; drugs; bad company and love affairs (pregnancy, diseases and early marriage) were all suggestions made. Stanley leads discussionStanley leading a discussion on the Balcony

He left us with some wise words he once heard; ‘Elimu nyingi, kazi kidogo, pesa nyingi’ (The higher the education, the higher the salary and the smaller the labour for it). We played on the beach, had a Bible study and in the evening there was a campfire.

Games on the beach

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Games on the Beach

Day 2

Day two started bright and early at 6.30am with Morning Glory (devotions) before a quick breakfast and then out to the beach at 7.30am to catch glass bottomed boats which took us to the coral reef for snorkeling. Most of the students had never been on a boat before and also could not swim but everyone was brave enough to put on a life jacket and get in the water to look at the beautiful fish and the coral. After Snorkeling, Mohammed the boat owner doubled as the local HIV/AIDS expert and gave a useful and informative talk about this disease. Lots of notes were taken and questions asked by the students who seemed determined to get their facts straight. Stanley then talked about caring for Creation and why we should do it as well as why A Rocha exists. In the afternoon we went to Watamu Turtle Watch to learn more about turtles and why they are endangered. Everyone particularly enjoyed meeting ‘Kisumi’ the resident disabled turtle. The day was all go and we arrived back a bit late for Henry’s talk about Careers, where he focused on having realistic goals and not simply pursuing a particular career because that is what a relative wants for you – wise words. Afterwards there a bit of time for some activities on the beach including soccer, sand sculptures and a beach clean-up. In the evening there was time for a video – ‘The God’s must be crazy.’ If you have not seen it it’s a timeless comedy classic and was enjoyed by everyone (particularly Tsofa who appeared to have watched it several times!).

Kids camp at Mwamba for ASSETS students

It’s the third year running now that we’ve been given funds (just $2,000 does it) to run two 3-4 day camps for kids at the A Rocha Kenya centre, Mwamba. Funds have been generously given by a church in the UK who’s pastor, Chris, volunteered for us 3 years ago and he’s spearheaded the idea. We’ll have 40 students from the ASSETS programme come and spend time with our team playing games, swimming, snorkelling (some may have never even seen the sea let alone swim in it or see the fish below its surface! – and they live only 20kms away from it as the Pied Crow flies…!!) and learning about the importance to care for God’s creation – the natural environment.

Hopefully those on the team will have good enough internet access to be able to do a daily blog of events – so watch this space!

Human knot game with ASSETS students Playing the ‘human knot’ game with ASSETS students

Introducing A Rocha Kenya’s Environmental Education Officer – Tsofa Mweni

I was born on 27 september 1967 in Shimba Hills (south of Mombasa) where my dad was working as a schoolteacher, and had settled after being transfered from Malindi. I come from a family of 7 (5 brothers and 2 sisters) and went to school in Shimba Hills and later joined Kenyatta High School in Taita (about 200kms inland) for my secondary school, then later to Kilifi (just south of Watamu) for my Advanced Level education.

tsofa_in_blue.jpg Tsofa Mweni – Env Ed officer for A Rocha Kenya – often introduces himself as “Tsofa, so good” or “Tsofa as in sofa set”..

All through my school days, I was a member of the Wildlife Clubs Kenya (WCK) group and participated in many school organised events, both at local and national level. e.g. essay competitions, and also I was very keen on drama. I participated in many WCK drama fetes.

I then went to train for a Diploma in Education at Kisii College (1992) so as to become a secondary school teacher. In college, I was elected the College Clubs Coordinator-and was responsible for planning all college club itineraries and liaising with the college admin. I was also the Chair for the Environmental Club, and an avid member of the Drama club. I emerged winner of the national Drama competition in dramatised poem in 1992.

When I completed my training I was posted to Voi, Taita, and later transfered to Kakuyuni Secondary School, near Malindi. In my days at Kakuyuni, I was a very active Wildlife Club patron, and chaired the Malindi WCK patrons Action Group. My school, Kakuyuni is located right next to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and thus we had a lot of interaction with the forest.

It was during the school WCK meetings that I was informed of the job advertisement at the ASF Management and Conservation Project (funded by Birdlife International) for the post of Conservation Education Officer. I was encouraged by many to apply for the position, a 3 year contract
job; this meant forgoing a government permanent job with it’s securities which was a risk, but I thought of it as a challenge then, and due to my interest in conservation from even the past… I decided to go for it, and believed the God will show me the way.  And that is how I got fully involved in conservation work.

The 3 years (1999-2001) in ASF was a great eye-opener for me. I learned a lot from the many people whom I interacted with at the forest. I also used my teacher training to develop better teaching and awareness raising strategies that helped improve the undestanding of the forest to the local people and more so among the school children and teachers.

tsofa_giving_tree_nursery_lesson.jpg  Tsofa teaching WCK students how to make a tree nursery

At the end of the 3 years, I joined the newly established A Rocha Kenya and I thank God for guiding me through. I have enjoyed working for ARK, I have enjoyed seeing it grow, and I have grown along with it. My work experience has grown, and my faith in the Lord has grown too… and God be praised for that.

Tsofa, our Education Officer, helping a boy release a bird after it has been ringed  Tsofa helping a student release a bird after it has been ringed

Tsofa with Willy demonstrating bird ringing - with a soft toy! Tsofa (on right) and Willy (Forest Guide) demonstrating how to ring and measure a bird