Wildlife 101: Can this school save the environment?

Story highlights

The African Wildlife Foundation is building conservation schools in rural Africa

It barters with local communities for land to protect

Partnered with MASS Design, it is bringing better schools to the Bush

CNN  — 

The African Wildlife Foundation is hoping to do some tricky medicine on the world at large. It’s trying to stop the planet’s lungs from collapsing.

“If you think of the world as having two lungs, the Amazon rainforest is one lung, and the Congo Basin forest is the second. It’s a place everyone should be concerned about in a time of climate change,” says Patrick Bergin, the organization’s CEO.

The Congo Basin is also home to the bonobo, forest elephants and Congo peacocks – species whose survival is dependent on that of the surrounding forest. Bergin has launched an innovative program to save the environment, not just the one region, but on the whole African continent – the cradle of civilization and potentially its ecological safe keeper.

Over the next decade, the African Wildlife Foundation is building 15 conservation-themed primary schools in some of Africa’s most remote regions – areas that are also highly strategic from an environmental standpoint. The schools are designed to be state-of-the-art, built with attractive faculty housing that will hopefully lure some of Africa’s best teachers.

In exchange, the organization not only helps to shape young minds to further the cause, but gets written agreement from the local community to set aside a patch of land for conservation purposes – a stretch that will be free form hunting, logging and unplanned agriculture.

“It’s a bargaining tool,” admits Bergin.

“[These communities] are rich in land, but poor in cash. We brought in a resource to help build a school, and we barter.”

Education in the Bush

Bergin notes that when it comes to education in Africa, resources go first to schools in the city, then to those in the surrounding towns.

“Kids that live in the Bush are likely to be deeply disadvantaged,” he says.

It is precisely that segment, he argues, that needs access to good schooling to protect the future of the continent.