In recognition of their unwavering commitment to the environment, 49 Limpopo schools received their WESSA/WWF-SA Eco-Schools flags at the Limpopo regional flag ceremony held on February 15 in the Maluleke village near Malamulele. The Eco-Schools flag is awarded in recognition of schools who have committed to improving environmental learning and action through their curriculums.One such school is Pfunani Primary, who on, recognising the need to save water, started a project whereby learners use plastic bottles as sprinklers and use overturned bottles to slowly water individual trees. They have also established a nursery of indigenous seedlings.
Cathy Dzerefos, the Eco-Schools coordinator for the Limpopo Province, says the programme is a valuable tool for schools to use for the promotion of sustainable development.“One of the programme’s core aims is to ensure that efforts for better environmental learning and action are sustained and become part of how schools are managed into the future. The goal is far bigger than the flag. The goal is to foster love and understanding for the environment and therefore lasting behavioural change in tomorrow’s leaders.”
An example of this behavioural change can be seen at Mmbara Senior Primary School. The school, which received the flag for the second time, has focused on reducing energy consumption by switching to energy saving light bulbs and creating awareness around saving electricity. This year they also plan to experiment with solar energy.
Of the schools who received their flags at the ceremony, seven received the flag for the third consecutive year. According to Dzerefos, the sustained environmental progress at these schools is the ultimate goal of the Eco-Schools programme.The WESSA/WWF-SA Eco-Schools programme is now in its fifth year and has been embraced by schools across the country. Importantly, it has proved equally successful at both remote rural schools with limited resources as well as at elite private schools.
The Eco-Schools programme helps participating schools to use their environment as a learning tool. It harnesses youngsters’ inherent interest in the natural world, encourages them to identify environmental problems and provides curriculum-linked plans to address those problems.The schools are grouped into nodes which work closely with a node coordinator, in turn managed by a provincial coordinator.Since the programme was launched in South Africa in 2003 with funding from Nampak, the number of schools that has registered has increased from 56 to 882 in 2007.Currently, 41 countries participate worldwide with more than 21 000 participating schools in countries from as far afield as China, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Brazil.
The programme is principally sponsored in Limpopo Province by De Beers with support from The Green Trust, a partnership between WWF South Africa and Nedbank and the Palabora Foundation and implemented in partnership with Birdlife SA, the Lapalala Wilderness School and the Botanical Society of South Africa. The department of agriculture and the department of economic development, environment and tourism in the province also fund and implement the programme at a number of schools.