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Fear of Wild Animals Force Parents To Delay Enrolling Pupils For School

Human and wildlife conflict haunts communities living in the peripheries of the national parks in Hwange. Image by Masai Mara

BY LETHOKUHLE NKOMO | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | MAR 18, 2022

Areas worst affected by human wildlife conflict include Chidobe, Chikandakubi, Silewu, Mabale and Makwandara.

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — “June 5, 2017 brings the most painful memories in my whole life. This is the day I lost my child who had just turned 7 and was doing Grade1 at Lupote Primary School,” a tearful Vena Mbiwa says.

Mbiwa’s child was mauled to death by a lion.

“On the fateful day, it was early morning when I sent my boy to ask for some firewood from neighbours as I prepared for him to go to school, and that was my last conversation with him. My boy did not return home.”

“I was then alarmed by screams of my neighbours who were terrified by a collard lion which was lying beside my boy. The picture of my dead child lying next to a lion will never fade away.”

Human and wildlife conflict haunts communities living in the peripheries of the national parks in Hwange district with a number of parents in the area delaying to enrol their children for school because of the fear of wild animals while some children end up not enrolling for school altogether.

Vusi Moyo, a father of a nine year old boy who learns at Kanyamambizi Primary school in Jambezi, says he delayed enrolling his son for Early Child Development (ECD) classes fearing wild animals that freely roam around the area.

At exactly 5:30 am Moyo walks his son from Mukanda village to his school, passing through the thick Mopani forest which is home to hyenas, buffalos, lions and elephants.

According to the Zimbabwe Wildlife Parks and Management Authority (Zimparks), the human–wildlife conflict is accelerated by the establishment of homes closer to the wild animal buffer zones.

A local Pastor from Seventh Day Adventist in Jambezi says his church is extending a hand in helping the villagers to deal with human-wildlife conflict.

“When there is fuel in the church car, I sometimes sacrifice to drive the learners to school because we cannot let children stop going to school. To make matters worse we are the ones who invaded the homes of these animals by establishing homes and expanding our fields.”
Seventh Day Adventist pastor

Some parents have resorted to walking their children to and from school fearing wild animals that freely roam around the area.

Hwange Rural District Council (RDC) chairperson Sinikiwe Nyathi confirms that human wildlife conflict was affecting learners in the district.

“We have often received cases where children meet elephants on their way to and from school. It becomes a danger to the learners if they meet the animals when it is charged,” Nyathi says.

The elephants are a menace during drought and farming season as they invade villages in search of food in the fields.

Although the Hwange RDC has established a base section with rangers and scouts to deal with problematic animals, Nyathi says poor telecommunications network coverage is a challenge, and it hampers rapid response plans.

“We have a problem of network connectivity in our rural communities. Whenever we have a human-wildlife conflict, villagers find it difficult to communicate with rangers, hence exposing children to more danger,” Nyathi reveals.

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To ensure learners are not denied access to education because of fear of the wild animals, the RDC is now building schools closer to villages.

“In order to assist the learners who are exposed to human–wildlife conflict, the Hwange RDC has built pre-schools closer to their homes. We have built these in human–wildlife prone areas,” Nyathi says.

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