Urban Youth Learn More About Climate Change and National Parks

Young city dwellers can now learn more about climate change outside the class room and get to know their national parks at the same time. In early June, 96 pupils and 14 teachers from schools in Gauteng and North West Province attended a weekend camp at the Pilanesberg National Park, which formed part of the launch of the second phase of the SANParks Kudu Green School Initiative (KGSI).

This is an environmental programme, started in 2010 and which 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, said SANParks chief executive officer, Dr David Mabunda.

He said that although climate change is a topical issue, 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."

"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."

He said the reasons behind the selection of the schools in urban areas 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.

According to Dr Mabunda, SANParks has achieved good results in environmental education programmes. "To date SANParks has hosted about 22 808 participants in the various national parks. About 95 percent (21 633) of these are pupils and 5 percent (1175) are teachers." The camp will run for three weeks and have accommodated over 300 pupils and 40 teachers.

The various parks engage with communities to build capacity, conceptualise, develop and implement sustainable projects in these communities. This has been happening in large scales in communities adjacent to national parks which are mostly rural, said Dr Mabunda. He said despite all these developments in rural areas, urban areas have benefitted less from these programmes. "It is therefore imperative for us not to ignore the potential impact one can have by targeting the young ones in the urban areas."

KGSI is supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and endorsed by the Basic Education Department and its provincial counterparts.

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