This year the Gondwana Conservation Foundation (GCF) hosted 218 children and 12 teachers from local community schools over 3? day courses. The Kids Conservation Program’s focus is to expose the learners to conservation principles and future work opportunities in conservation. The whole program was conducted in English as well as in the home language of each group of children being Afrikaans or Xhosa. The GCF strives to facilitate conservation in the mother tongue as we believe in genuine community work in conservation. The impact of this on the children and what they got out of the program was remarkable.
On arrival, Jolandie Botha from the GCF who has co-ordinated the whole programme, met with the children and their teachers, and after a short briefing the program commenced. Kicking off with a game drive through the reserve the children learnt about various antelope, insects and Fynbos plants. On various occasions they had the opportunity to engage with their surroundings and taste the nectar of Erica discolor or even crunch into the tangy taste of termites! The children were then taught to identify black wattles and were also given the practical knowledge and experience of how to clear and eradicate wattle trees. After learning about how problematic these aliens are and how they drain our local land of water and nutrients, many children were excited about taking this knowledge and clearing trees along streams and waterways in the areas in which they lived, which is very exciting.
In collaboration with the Gondwana Anti-Poaching Unit (APU), the children were taught to use telemetry equipment to find and locate coloured animals in the field. They were also taught to identify animal tracks along a waterhole bank in order to demonstrate some of the skills required to become a proficient tracker and APU solider.
For many of the learners this was a once in a lifetime experience, the amazement on their faces and the complete wonder that they experienced in Gondwana’s wilderness areas was moving. They experienced wilderness as they have never seen it before, they saw animals they have never seen before, and achieved their own personal best at tasks they didn’t know existed.
The feedback from the learners was positive and encouraging;
“It was very nice to see all the animals and I will tell my parents what I learned and how to look after animals” ~ Nicolene.
“It taught me to look ahead” ~ Petra
“It gave me lots of focus and the environment was was very nice” ~ Eldine
“It changed everything because I did not think we would have so much fun” ~ Amanda
“I enjoyed learning about black wattle, proteas and animals like the mountain zebra, rhinos, blue wildebeest and impala” ~ Jurgen
“I now care more for animals and plants and it motivated me to learn more and to care for nature” ~ Fayron
“That it was clean and animals were behaving good. It cleared my mind and I felt like I was in paradise” ~ Dumisa
“To know that you must not pollute the environment and care for animals” ~ Lincoln
The schools that partook in the program this year are as follows;
Herbertsdale Laerskool, St Lukes primary school, Ruiterbos Laerskool, TM Ndanda primary school, Imekhaya Primary school, Isalathiso primary school and Garden route primary school.
We look forward to the next step in our Conservation Kids Program 2019, where we will be hosting selected learners for an overnight conservation camp on the reserve during August and September.
Text & Photographs: Raquel de Castro Maia