Media Release: Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister launches Green Initiative for Gauteng schools
The Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi, and the Chief Executive of South African National Parks, Dr David Mabunda, today launched the Kudu Green School Initiative in Pretoria.
The Kudu Green School Initiative is a new environmental programme of SANParks that is targeted at the urban school going children. Learners will be encouraged to research and debate biodiversity conservation issues based on climate change related topics.
This initiative is being piloted in eight Gauteng schools, from Johannesburg and Tshwane/Pretoria areas and will be rolled out in other areas at a later stage. It is supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and endorsed by both the National and Gauteng Department of Education.
Speaking at the launch, Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi said, “the future of our environment lies in the ability of our youth to understand their local and global environments and the issues that impact negatively on our world. The sustainability of our natural environment and ecosystems can not only be left to existing legislation and policies; we also need to invest in the knowledge and development of our future leaders who will take the responsibility of advancing such policies.”
According to Dr Mabunda the reasons behind the selection of schools in Gauteng was that urban based schools, especially those in previously disadvantaged communities, have had minimum or no exposure to national parks, awareness of conservation issues and opportunities in the environmental field because Gauteng has no national park.
The best way to get young people to understand and have respect for the environment in conservation areas is to start by making positive and visible changes in the environments where they live, said Dr Mabunda.
He said this initiative strives to enable learners of all ages to gain an understanding of climate’s influence on society as well as appreciation of the environment they are living in. Climate change is such a topical issue at the moment but most people do not even know what it is all about, least of all young people. This will be a perfect platform for them to learn, conceptualise and interpret this phenomenon.
Ms Mabudafhasi went on to commend SANParks for having taken the initiative to expose learners in Gauteng to our wonderful natural and cultural heritage in National Parks. It is true that the majority of urban based learners are rarely exposed to national parks or conservation issues, she added.
To attract school leavers, the environmental sector depends heavily on them being aware of the field and holding environmental values. For many, school is the only opportunity for developing such awareness and values, and teachers play a key role, in either inspiring these values, or exposing learners to shaping experiences during schooling, said Mabudafhasi.
She concluded by saying that, therefore an initiative like the KGSI will ensure that learners in urban environments are prepared for future careers in conservation and the natural sciences.
Dr Mabunda said, SANParks has achieved sterling results in the environmental education programmes. “To date SANParks has hosted about 22 808 participants in the various national parks. About 95% (21 633) of these learners and 5% (1175) were educators. This is a clear indication of a role that an organisation such as SANParks can play in the lives of many young learners and educators.”
The various parks actively engage with communities to build capacity and assist communities to conceptualise, develop and implement sustainable projects in their communities. This has been happening in large scales in communities adjacent to national parks which are mostly rural.
He said despite all these exciting developments in rural areas, urban areas have benefitted less from these programmes. “Gauteng is home arguably to 40% of the South African population despite it being the smallest province in the country. It is therefore imperative for us not to ignore the potential impact one can have by targeting the residents of this province.”
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