This year CITW’s Open Day programme had three events, which were conducted in TA Liwonde, on the eastern side of Liwonde National Park; TA Kalembo, on the western side of Liwonde National Park; and in TA Malanda, at Chintheche on the Nkhata Bay lakeshore.
Each event invited 250 children, 250 parents, 40 local leaders, 4 community-based organisations and 10 District Government officials.
What was special about CITW Open Day 2022?
From CITW’s first Open Day event in 2008 through to the 2016, open day events were organised and run solely by the CITW Operations team. At the time, children and youth played no role in co-ordinating and conducting the events, and were only invited to take part in specific activities. From 2016, the youth from CITW YES Clubs (College and University students and graduates) started taking the initiative, organising the events on their own with minimal support from CITW Ops. But this year, the 2022 events demonstrated even more ownership by the children and youths.
Through the Changing the Lens on Conservation initiative, this year’s programme involved Eco-Club members aged 11 to 13 at primary school. They took it upon themselves to identify environmental issues in their communities and around their school premises. Upon finding a relevant issue, they were trained to take photos of it, and thereafter, based on their level of knowledge and skills from school and the CITW programme, they developed and wrote stories around the issues. Initially, 300 entries were received, from which CITW Eco-Mentors (teachers) and CITW university students helped select the best 45 stories. This year’s Open Day Events in the communities showcased these 45 stories. During the events, each child who had submitted a story had to stand by a banner which depicted their submission. The children mastered their stories and were ready to educate and engage the audiences who came to their story stand.
Another special feature of this year’s events was that CITW children from primary schools (Eco-Club members) developed stories, while CITW youth (university students and graduates) engaged in editing the stories. The youth also took the role of facilitating the events as Co-ordinators of Ceremonies (MCs).
The children used the Open Day event as a platform to showcase their growth in knowledge, their positive change in attitude and their increasing passion for wildlife and natural resource conservation. The youth used the events to discuss with their own communities the direct correlation between conservation of wildlife and the social-economic development of their communities.
The general objectives of CITW’s Open Days 2022
- To provide opportunities for local children and youth (Eco-Club and YES Club members) to showcase to their own people what they learn and gain by being members of CITW.
- To provide opportunities for children and youth with a platform in front of their own community leaders and Government officials, and appeal for total conservation of wildlife in the nearby Parks.
- To provide opportunities for the youth (YES Club members) to practice leadership by delving into prevalent issues which affect their communities, and then to find possible solutions.
- To provide opportunities for local communities to look at the various environmental issues which affect them, and discuss and explore possible solutions being suggested by the CITW children and youth.
Shared Responsibilities for CITW 2022 Open Days
Children from Eco-Clubs developed and wrote their stories. The Eco-Mentors helped the children develop their stories from environmental issues in their communities, in line with some of the main topics they learn in their Eco-Clubs:
- Conservation of wildlife
- Human-wildlife conflicts
- Wildlife crimes
- Socio-economic activities around protected and conservation areas
- The beauty, the value, and some ecological roles of wildlife
- Wildlife and culture
- Environmental degradation
The children identified environmental issues, interviewed local experts, wrote their stories and took corresponding photos of the issues.
CITW youth, (former Eco-Club members), especially those who are now university students and graduates, edited the stories written by children. The youth also planned and facilitated the events. We were impressed by the tremendous growth and development in the youths’ leadership qualities.
Report by Symon Chibaka, CITW Malawi Programme Co-ordinator