Promoting environmental training at rural schools

Lethokuhle Gumede with the tree he planted at his school, Mdudla Primary. Learners pledged to visit their trees later in life as a testimony to their commitment to conservation and to inspire future learners

SHINING a light on the conservation of both the large and the little, a partnership of various environmental entities was last year launched in the uMkhanyakude District from which rural schools will benefit from a more conservation-focused curriculum.

The partnership between Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), Africa Foundation and &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, focuses on environmental education in the Mduku area.

The project targeted 210 learners from five schools surrounding Phinda and, over a nine month period, developed their appreciation for nature and increase their ecological knowledge.

Funded by Disney through the Africa Foundation, a series of live action shorts entitled Eco Club, which followed the learners’ participation in the programme, will be aired on the Disney channel, culminating in a programming block on Earth Day.

The boma experience at Phinda’s Bayete Camp was a highlight for all Mdudla Primary School learners, especially being stars under the spotlight of the Disney cameras

Through game drives and an overnight stay at Phinda, learners and educators encountered and learned about the Big 5, as well as the lesser known Little 5 – elephant shrew, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver, ant lion and leopard tortoise – all of which occur at Phinda.

On returning to school, the learners were encouraged to create their own wilderness garden which they must monitor to see if any of the Little 5 take up residence.

Supplementary to on-site learning at Phinda, the project is delivered through in-school learning.

WESSA’s implementation of the eco schools programme provided the structure for environmental considerations to be included in all school management decisions.

Another project focused on developing the capacity of educators at participating schools by equipping them with the necessary skills to deliver effective environmental teaching.

The programme’s ‘seven steps’ approach to whole school development both complements the school curriculum and stimulates active community participation.

Speaking at the wrap up of the project, an educator from Qomukuphila Primary School said, ‘We will adopt the forest adjacent to our school. The local chief had given us the land to build a school hall, but that will become our forest and the hall can be built within the current school yard. No tree will be removed from that forest, that’s a promise.’


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Tamlyn Jolly

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