Cape Town - South African National Parks (SANParks) has announced the launch of its annual Kudu Green School Initiative (KGSI) programme for 2017 in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
The initiative - Environmental Education Outreach Programme - which started in 2010 with only seven schools, targets urban school-going children from disadvantaged backgrounds and has since grown to twenty schools.
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Enhancing climate science literacy
Learners are encouraged to research and debate biodiversity conservation issues based on climate change-related topics, as well as being exposed to conservation and climate-related careers.
“The programme aims to enhance climate science literacy by advocating lifestyle and behavioural changes that favour resource conservation and contribute to climate change mitigation," says SANParks head of corporate communications, Janine Raftopoulos.
According to Raftopoulos, the schools selected are all from Gauteng and are selected through the Department of Basic Education district offices with a set criteria, taking into consideration the better performing disadvantaged schools who are also involved in other environmental initiatives.
"They are from different education districts in four municipalities, namely City of Tshwane, City of Johannesburg, West Rand and Ekurhuleni," says Raftopoulos.
SANParks says while the majority of urban-based learners are rarely exposed to national parks or conservation issues, it wants to afford them the same opportunities as the rural learners in getting to know nature through its green school initiative.
Investing in future leaders
Raftopoulos says the future of the environment lies in the ability of the 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," says Raftopoulos.
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The programme has exposed more than 1500 learners from 20 schools to wilderness experience in national parks and reserves since its inception and Rftopoulos says once the learners are back in their communities they are agents of change for a better, healthier future for all in South Africa.