Supporting this years Forest Friday is a great opportunity to talk about the amazing school that our charity partners the Sumatran Orangutan Society have built in Sumatra. Protecting orangutans and their forest habitat starts with providing education for the local community and incentivising local farmers to become guardians of the forest and investing in the young who are the conservationists of the future.
The Leuser Nature School has been built at Bukit Mas providing free education for their children in exchange for their active involvement in forest restoration and protection efforts. There are no other secondary schools in the area, making it extremely expensive and challenging for families to send their children to school. The Leuser Nature School is therefore enabling local children in the villages around Bukit Mas to remain in education for much longer than they might otherwise have done – before the Leuser Nature School was built, they would have finished their schooling at age 11 or 12.
A typical school day starts at 7am, enabling the pupils to start their lessons before the heat of the day becomes too intense. Dressed in the uniforms provided by the school, the pupils start their day with half an hour of dance to contemporary Indonesian pop anthems – to help them feel happy and alert before they sit down for lessons!
“The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on Earth where orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers still live together in the wild. Projects like the Leuser Nature School, which involve local people, give us the best chance of safeguarding Leuser’s forests and wildlife in the long term.” – Panat Hadisiswoyo
One of the school’s aims is to train the next generation in sustainable agriculture, so the school building is flanked by a small but thriving vegetable garden. The pupils are taught how to grow everything from small chilli plants to tall rows of corn, all without chemical fertilisers or pesticides.
Inside the classroom, there is a steadily growing library of books in Bahasa Indonesia and English. Many of the English books have been donated by SOS donors and volunteers, and there is a strong focus on wildlife and the environment. In addition to their usual lessons, the school often provides extra learning experiences led by local experts. Recently, for example, the pupils were taught to make handicrafts using palm leaves and other natural, sustainable materials. This session, led by a local woman whose child attends the school, aimed to introduce the pupils to the idea of ethical entrepreneurship.
So how does the school impact orangutans and their forests? Firstly, the school is free to attend (including books, uniforms, etc) so is an incentive for the pupils’ parents to collaborate with our partner, OIC, learning forest-friendly farming methods and embracing agroforestry and permaculture rather than unsustainable farming which relies on cutting or burning forest. Secondly, the school has a big focus on nature and environment in addition to the rest of the curriculum, so the pupils are developing an understanding of the wildlife they see on their way to school or around their parents’ farms, and will grow up with a closer connection to wildlife – so, no matter what career path they take, they will have the knowledge they need to live in harmony with wildlife such as orangutans.
“Visiting the Lucy Wisdom School was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in Sumatra. For me, it epitomises the feeling of hope we all have for the future of Sumatra’s wildlife – not only are the school’s pupils having an amazing experiential education now, but we are investing in the conservationists of the future” – Lucy Radford SOS
We are proud to be partners with the Sumatran Orangutan Society donating money towards helping to protect orangutans and their forests in Sumatra from every sale of our childrens and adults orangutan design sweatshirts and wall prints. The gift that gives back.