Congratulations to Francis Rwabuhinga on being selected as Primate Education Network’s (PEN) June Educator of the Month! Special thanks to Amy Hanna for her nomination and blog submission.
I had the pleasure of working with Francis Rwabuhinga for two years while I served as a Conservation Educator and Field Director with the Kasiisi Project and its Ugandan counterpart, the Kibale Forest Schools Program. Francis is the Conservation Education Coordinator with the Kasiisi Project, working with schools, communities, and on research programs.
The Kasiisi Project’s Conservation Education Program encompasses a variety of initiatives. These initiatives are aimed at instilling a commitment to environmental stewardship in Uganda’s next generation and encouraging more sustainable ways of living. They work with students and teachers in fourteen primary schools, mainly through established Wildlife Clubs, to improve knowledge about the environment, increase awareness of conservation issues, and encourage participation in fun, hands-on activities. The project’s affiliation with the Kibale Chimpanzee Project means activities often have a chimpanzee focus.
Francis is passionate and knowledgeable about primate ecology and conservation. This is clear when he teaches; he is an excellent example of someone who respects the environment. With the high primate diversity within Kibale National Park and the encroachment of communities on the forest, Francis’ role as a teacher and mentor to youth is essential. Francis says, “Conservation education plays an imperative role in raising awareness.”
One of Francis’ main responsibilities is to support primary school Wildlife Clubs. I have seen him direct creative programs that connect teachers and students to the natural environment. He leads forest walks and manages conservation debates – both of which are popular with the students. Francis, a dynamic speaker, also reaches out to the general population at churches, an audience that would seldom hear about the importance of primate conservation. Francis says he uses these speaking opportunities to stress that conservation “is a responsibility for all.”
Francis is also experienced in ensuring conservation projects are properly carried out in the field. Through the Water Project, he is dedicated to teaching students living near Kibale National Park how to test the health of their water resources and the ecology of healthy aquatic ecosystems. His well-rounded approach to conservation education is based upon the belief that it “brings educators and local people in hot spot areas of primates together to discuss their future.”
Last month, Francis was selected to receive the Charles Southwick Conservation Education Commitment Award by the International Primatological Society. This award is dedicated to recognizing individuals living in primate habitat countries that have made a significant contribution to formal and informal conservation education in their countries.
This blog post was written by Amy Hanna, a PEN Advisor for East Africa, member of the American Association of Zoo Keepers Conservation Committee, and Consultant Field Supervisor for a climatology research project with the University of New Hampshire near Kibale National Park, Uganda. She previously worked with Francis, PEN's June Educator of the Month, while serving as the Kasiisi Project/Kibale Forest Schools Program Field Director.