By Janke Strauss and Melissa Wray
In Kruger National Park
It was a day for the old and the young, the traditional and the modern. The dull winter tones of the bush at Phabeni were brightened by the bright colours of traditional clothes as teachers and pupils gathered in the interests of the environment. The cultural wisdom of old women and men was imparted to young learners involved in a modern sustainable living initiative.
For the last two years, 40 schools in the Bushbuckridge and Mbombela regions have joined forces with the Kids in Kruger programme and followed the international Eco-Schools programme. The hundreds of children attending the schools have been doing their bit for the environment, focussing on three projects - greening their school yards, recycling waste material and planting vegetable gardens.
Their commitment cannot be questioned. Some schools have no water, and in order to meet the challenge of growing plants the children have carried the precious commodity in containers from home to school everyday.
After guiding and encouraging the schools for so long, the Kids in Kruger team were left with the difficult task of choosing which schools had best carried out their mission. Heritage Day, September 24, saw six schools recognised for their labours.
Phiva Primary School from Malelane won the Gold Award, for going above and beyond the three focus tasks. They started an indigenous plant nursery, and provided excess vegetables harvested from their school garden to orphans in the area. Every child in the school, from grade R to grade seven was involved in the Eco-Schools tasks, each grade having its own patch in the vegetable garden.
Silver went to Mdzimba Primary and bronze to Tsembanani Primary, both from Mbombela. Three schools from Bushbuckridge also received commendations, with Njanji and Londhindha being highly commended and Mkhumbini being commended. Although all the schools in the Kids in Kruger programme have been following the Eco-Schools guidelines, they were not officially affiliated with the international body that coordinates Eco-Schools around the world.
Next year 17 of the schools will register and join the other Limpopo Eco-Schools. Lindiwe Chuma, project coordinator for Kids in Kruger, has received training from the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Southern Africa (Wessa) and will be helping the schools attain their green flag status. Another 50 schools will also be introduced to the curriculum next year, and begin greening their school and their future.