By Chinnamma Reddy of Marine Ecology Consulting
From the 10th – 13th November, 2008, Dakuibeqa Primary School and Uluinakorovatu Primary School on Beqa Island, celebrated the International Year of the Reef (IYOR) by participating in a week long program on marine education and conservation.
Uluinakorovatu School rounded up the program by being part of Fiji’s special IYOR event; The Great Fiji Butterflyfish Count 2008.
The program was the brainchild of Sam and Christine Tawake of Lawaki Beach House on Beqa Island. Helen Sykes of Marine Ecology provided technical support and advice.
The week-long activity was facilitated by Marine Ecology staff; Chinnamma Reddy and Eroni Rasalato, who were later joined by Conservation International (CI) staff, Loraini Sivo and Vaseva Cerelala, Wildlife Conservation (WSC) staff Naushad Yakub and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) staff Sikeli Valemei helped out and took part in The Great Fiji Butterflyfish Count.
Our exciting week’s program began at Dakuibeqa where a half day program was carried out on introductory marine education.
Topics covered included: what a coral is; how it contributes to reef building; types of coral; threats to reefs; marine fish and invertebrates; how to help protect and preserve reefs. A lot of teaching, and hopefully, learning was involved in that half day, which was certainly a rewarding experience for teachers, facilitators and school kids alike.
A similar program was conducted that afternoon in Uluinakorovatu School in Naceva village, however with slightly more time in hand to cover the course in more detail. We had three afternoon sessions with the children there, which was a real challenge the first day where Eroni and I tried really hard to keep the children from falling asleep! However, the enthusiasm increased and by the end of that first day we had eager children all trying to remember names of the 27 Butterflyfish and still wanting to know more!
The excitement level was also certainly high amongst the adults in Naceva village who came to listen eagerly to the presentations on Tuesday night. The word had certainly spread through the kids to them that coral was an animal.
Interested adults and elders of Naceva village listening to discussions on coral reefs, reef inhabitants and marine protected areas.
The school kids participated in a range of activities in the three days ranging from coloring competitions and making fish puppets, to basic snorkel and in-water training for the older ones.
Throughout the week’s program, kids were encouraged to participate in general discussion and activities on reef ecology and were awarded with prizes for their efforts. These prizes were kindly donated by Marine Ecology, Resort Support, The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and Lawaki Beach House. In addition, resource materials such as educational DVD’s, books and posters were donated to both schools by The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), Marine Ecology, Conservation International and Naushad Yakub (personal donation).
Not only did school kids and adults participate in the week long activities but also Lawaki Beach House staff embers were eager to learn snorkeling techniques and conduct the official Butterflyfish Count activity for their resort.
The week finished up with fruits, scones and refreshments donated by Lawaki Beach House and then a thank-you session with the teachers and elders around the kava bowl. A lot of positive feedback was received from the teachers and adults in general discussions, and it was encouraging to note that they were certainly eager to know more about reef conservation, its inhabitants, and the idea of marine protected areas.
It is hoped that this initiative will be carried on in future with support and participation of the villagers, and interested conservation organizations and tourist operations in the area.