Meta Barry and Buba Bah lead the education and awareness programme of the Communities for Red Colobus (C4RC) project. Their aim is to work with local children and adults to help them understand, value and protect primate populations and their forest homes. Meta was born and brought up in Sambel Kunda before attending Gambia College to complete a three-year primary teaching certificate.
Sambel Kunda school lies at the heart of the project area and caters for children from several outlying villages. Today Meta is delivering a video presentation to 50 students between the ages of 11 and 16. They are being challenged to think about monkeys as our closest living ancestors.
At the end of the lesson, she asks the class ‘what is a primate?’ a young boy stands up ‘monkeys and humans are primates’ he says, ‘we share large brains, hands and nails for grasping food and both live in large family groups.’
Meta and Buba use a variety of teaching materials and methods to engage the children around the needs of red colobus conservation. Lessons are supported by posters, books and presentations and are brought to life with song and drama about the spectacular forests and wildlife that still exist in this corner of The Gambia.
During lockdown Meta delivered socially distanced small group teaching within her village before moving to the school when it was safe and legal to do so. However, teaching is not restricted to the classroom and local children now benefit from a weekly wildlife club with exciting opportunities for field trips into the forest to experience wild troops of red colobus for themselves. As word has spread through the village grapevine the club has become very popular and now hosts upwards of 20 children.
‘We know that children and young adults have the greatest capacity for learning when they are having fun’ said Meta ‘we use games, quizzes and art competitions to engage young people around wildlife and hope they will share those messages at home with their parents.’
Adults in the project area are also an important part of the C4RC education programme and once a month Meta hosts a meeting with 25 local women. The majority did not have the opportunity to go to school and are keen to learn about the red colobus and the work of the C4RC project. The women also feedback to Meta with suggestions and ideas about how to shape the project to deliver maximum impact for wildlife and the local communities.
‘I wanted to join the project to protect the remaining populations of Temminck’s red colobus monkeys in The Gambia’ said Meta ‘community education is helping to change views and behaviours towards red colobus and will ensure the sustainable use of our forests and the survival of the monkeys.’
On behalf of the C4RC project I would like to thank Meta and Buba for all their good work and for ensuring a better future for endangered red colobus monkeys through community education.