The charitable organisation Sabine Plattner African Charities / SPAC aims at enabling and empowering children, women and men at the Republic of Congo’s Odzala-Kokoua National Park to act independently and sustainably for a future in the rainforest that is worth living.
Education is building bridges! Taking over responsibility for our common living environment means making possible the survival and coexistence of present and future generations in a respectful symbiosis of man, animals and nature.
Local action is at the heart of global activities to preserve the green lungs of our planet.
For the people living in the Odzala-Kokoua region, education is the key to bring about change and advancement. Playful, respectful, professional and close to everyday reality of children and adults – that’s the pedagogical concept applied by SPAC in its projects, like the first community centre Sanza Mobimba in Mbomo (in the southern sector bordering the national park), by early childhood, wildlife and conservation education.
A SPECIAL PLACE
The people in Odzala are not better or smarter than people anywhere else in the world. But they live in a special place. Especially beautiful, especially alive, especially important, but also especially difficult to live in.
Odzala is part of the second largest coherent rainforest area on earth. Hence this piece of Central Africa has a significant impact on our global climate, and the existence of all life.
For us, who are coming from abroad, it is important that all changes are sustained by the communities. This is a precondition for further development.
What makes the men and women of the villages near Odzala join the projects? Change has to mean improvement – concrete improvements of life quality. Work to support the family. Training and support for crafts and business. Schools for all girls and boys, adequately trained teachers, and teaching materials.
Education = empowerment to strengthen knowledge for independent, sustainable action
The seed for the project work by Sabine Plattner African Charities / SPAC has been sown by the explicit wish of local communities for support in developing sustainable education programmes.
Together with the people living with the rainforest, experienced professionals develop education programmes and individually designed pedagogical concepts, based on a comprehensive evaluation of the local situation of each community involved.
Special emphasis is given to foster skills for creative and effective action and problem solving in order to improve life quality with due consideration for the individuality of local structures and cultural features.
SPAC’s activities are long-term processes – because lasting change needs time.
Some of SPAC’s main objectives
|early childhood education||education according to Congolese curriculum and applying a highly effective and creative methodology developed by SPAC|
|nutrition||horticulture projects / water project|
|health / hygiene||workshops (children, parents; staff)|
|wilderness education||environmental education related to nature protection, species conservation, ecology, community, and responsibility|
Why is SPAC working in Odzala-Kokoua?
- taking over responsibility for the living environment, and respectful symbiosis between nature, animal and man
- improving the severely limited access to social infrastructure (educational institutions, health care etc.)
- supporting and strengthening regional structures for environmental protection and coping with everyday life
- local action to preserve the rainforest in a global context
Embedded in our education programme, we live the idea of sustainable animal, species and environmental protection, and support regional infrastructure.
Education & Conservation = a unique project linking community work in the villages of the tropical rainforest Odzala to lowland gorilla research that is being carried out for 15 years to protect them from extinction.
By constructing and inaugurating the community centre ‘Sanza Mobimba’ in Mbomo in November 2013, SPAC relies on information and identifying parents and adults as community role models – families that are open-minded for innovative education work including social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development that brings changes to community life.
Sanza Mobimba means ‘full moon’ in Lingala, since the light of the full moon is the brightest light in the tropical forest that reaches every hidden place – which is our internal vision in terms of education.
Early Childhood Development means the process of emotional, cognitive, sensory, spiritual, physical, social, and communication development of children from birth to school-going age. These early years of a child’s life are a time, when they acquire concepts, skills and attitudes that lay the foundation for lifelong learning.
Offering children a good Early Childhood Development experience enables them to grow and develop in their full potential. These early years have also been recognized as the ideal phase for passing on values that are important for the building of a peaceful, prosperous and respectful society.
In our community centre we offer a kindergarten for about 60 children in three groups from 3 to 6 years old. It is very important to us to align early childhood education to the cultural identity and everyday reality of the girls and boys from the Odzala-Kokoua region. Many teaching materials in Congo are still taken from France and contain texts and images that are meaningless and incomprehensible for children from a rural area in Central Africa.
Further, education shall take into account the children’s mother tongues. Often the children cannot follow, when the teachers only speak French, the language of the former colonial power. Every child around Odzala speaks the regional first language, which is Lingala. A second language, Mboko, is in use around Mbomo.
The best way for children to learn is by active participation, for example by getting in touch with vegetable and fruit growing in the community garden project or with cooking wholesome lunch. Active participation enables the children to experience their own creative powers. These skills and experiences are passed on to the parents by the children themselves, as well as through parents’ evenings. Learning children make learning parents.
The community centre Sanza Mobima is supporting a healthy physical and mental development of adolescents by ‘after school activities’ including sports, theatre performance, dance, games, garden activities, school coaching, but also ‘life skills trainings’ about health, hygiene, and nutrition. The ‘tutorial’ picks up on school lessons and playfully deepens them, e.g. by combining maths with ball games. And creative activities serve to train manual skills and to prepare the youths for their future working life.
It is important to us that these activities are also attended by the girls. In order to make this possible, we visited the parents to explain the Youth Development Program. Now the girls are allowed to participate in their specific programmes led by a woman.
Sanza Mobimba has the prerequisites and the motivated staff to help the adolescents to become active, dedicated and independent. And the adults learn to know and respect the ideas, visions and needs of the young people.
Around Odzala-Kokoua national park mainly Bantu and Pygmy people live in villages. Some just consist of a few huts, while others have some thousand inhabitants, with mayors, shops, churches and schools. Odzala means ‘home’ to around 80.000 people. The women grow corn, cassava and other crops on the fields, in some villages in the north also coffee and cocoa. What the families don’t need for themselves is sold on the market.
The rainforest is the livelihood for millions of people in Central Africa. Humans and nature live together closely, in good times and in bad times. Entire cultures, such as the Pygmy people, lead a “forest life”. Pygmies and Bantu live along the national park. The forest is their environment, jungle pharmacy, shelter and food source. Thus any destruction of nature will sooner or later affect the people, too. SPAC therefore follows a comprehensive approach: to strengthen the people in order to allow them to become protectors of their own families as well as of the rainforest and its animals.
Protection and conservation of the national park is creating employment, and herewith a sustainable positive development. In this region a SPAC staff salary may feed up to 20 family members. This is vital for a region where not more than 10% of the population have a regular income from paid labour.
The park management is offering additional jobs as eco-guards, trackers, or in an administrative position. Apprenticeships and job offers are the only long-term alternatives to poaching and deforestation.
GORILLAS IN THE NATIONAL PARK
In the national park the gorillas also live in groups of around 10-20 animals, including 6-8 adult females with their young or babies. The silverback pulls the group together and protects his family. The young are extremely keen to play with the babies of the group. They constantly try to lure them away from their mothers to go on discovery tour, high up in the canopy
THE LAST OF THEIR KIND?
The IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has classified the Western Lowland Gorilla as a critically endangered species. Our relatives are in great danger. The worst case scenario is as follows: Within the next three generations up to 80% of the entire population will disappear. Hence it is all the more important for Odzala to remain a safe place for the animals living there.
THE GREATEST DANGERS
Western Lowland Gorillas have suffered exceptionally high levels of mortality, caused by hunting and diseases. In some remote areas more than 90% of the population died over the past 10 years. In the Republic of Congo’s protected areas about 50% of gorillas fell victim to Ebola. Unfortunately the dangers do not stop at national park borders. Most protected areas have serious poaching problems. Hunting and Ebola are both ongoing threats that are not at all mitigated. The Western Lowland Gorilla is still highly endangered. Every loss is dramatic, as gorillas are long-lived animals and their reproductive rates are very low.