Peace Parks Foundation's response to COVID-19 in southern Africa.
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Online training supports conservation change-makers

Photo credit: The Southern African Wildlife College

The Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) is known for their impactful and effective hands-on conservation training, which extends beyond boundaries to develop and protect Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems. Each year, students from all over southern Africa and beyond come to the College, where they are given the skills to prepare them for success.

The College’s philosophy is not just based on providing quality training, but also on helping students discover themselves and their leadership capabilities so that they can become the conservation change-makers that the world so desperately needs. As such, the SAWC strives to improve current practices to address challenges and maximise impact via the facilitation of a landscape approach to integrated and inclusive conservation.

Photo credit: The Southern African Wildlife College, Environmental Sustainability Agency and Common Purpose.

Last year the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the education sector. The College, with the rest of the world, was faced with finding solutions quickly in order to continue with their training initiatives. Whilst the SAWC believes in a first-hand applied approach to training, this did not stop them from quickly responding to this by developing the ability to deliver online training. Using the Talent-Learning Management System, they designed and managed a distance learning curriculum that delivers a truly interactive experience and adds a blended-learning approach to their existing education and training programmes.

The College used on-site students to pilot their first online Apprentice Field Guide training course with the support of the MAVA Foundation through Peace Parks Foundation. This eight-week online course covers 17 comprehensive topics, which are grouped into seven clusters, according to theme. Each theme has a series of online resources, quizzes and assessments and on successful completion of the course, a SAWC certificate of completion can be downloaded. Students who achieve the Field Guide Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) pass-mark of 75% in the online theory exam, will then have the opportunity to complete a separate 35-day training course at the SAWC campus on the practical skills required for guiding.

Photo credit: The Southern African Wildlife College

This led to the development of a four-week online Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) training programme, with the first pilot short course delivered in November 2020. A training consultant was appointed to design, develop, host and assess learning activities via a learning management system, Zoom webinars and coordination with other subject-matter expert consultants in hosting their webinars.

After the successful pilot, the Transfrontier Conservation Management Training online course officially launched in April 2021. This is the first TFCA course of its kind, with the intention that future TFCA online courses will be offered by the College if there is a need and interest.

The online course is divided into four chapters dedicated to:

  • Introduction to TFCAs
  • TFCA Development and Management
  • Challenges and Benefits of TFCA Management
  • Key components of TFCAs, Marine Protected Areas & Fisheries

GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) funded the development of the TFCA online course initiative which includes 12 case studies from various TFCAs and is available in three languages. You can read more about this incredible initiative here.

As the College continues to navigate the intricacies of supporting student returns and movement across boundaries within health, safety and travel requirements, the SAWC has fully embraced blended learning, e-learning and working remotely and will continue to make great strides in conservation training.

Photo credit: The Southern African Wildlife College, Environmental Sustainability Agency and Common Purpose.

The College’s online offerings now also include: Protected Area Security Operations Planning (PASOP), Braveheart – Ranger Leadership Development Programme ,and a Light Sport Aircraft/Private Pilot’s License Aviation Theory course. The SAWC also aims to launch a three-year, Higher Education and Training, blended learning Natural Resource Management Diploma in 2023. This is currently in the development and accreditation phase, with two years being offered online and one year applied learning on site at the College campus.

The Southern African Wildlife College was established in 1996 as a Southern African Development Community (SADC) centre of specialisation in conservation education training and skills development. The college, which is registered as a Private Higher Education and Training institution, equips people with the qualifications, practical experience and thought leadership in managing complex ecosystems, conserving wildlife and empowering local communities. With a shared vision of building the capacity of staff in wildlife areas, both Peace Parks Foundation and WWF South Africa have been supporting the Southern African Wildlife College. Through these collective efforts, opportunities for collaboration using a holistic approach to applied and inclusive conservation management are sought to protect and conserve biodiversity.

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