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Eco-schools teach kids sustainable living

Written by Stephen Timm
The food garden at Lerutlhware Primary, in Mosenthal village, North West, has helped 1 075 learners to supplement meals they get through the school feeding programme.

Deputy principal Jeffrey Setshogoe says his is one of about 1 000 schools across the country involved in the Eco-schools Programme.

The Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa (Wessa) runs the programme with the support of the Department of Basic Education. The Eco-schools Programme encourages schools to develop environmental projects that can help schools to become financially self-sustaining.

The Eco-schools Programme is an international programme of the Foundation for Environmental Education developed to support environmental learning in the classroom. It is active in 64 countries and has been implemented in South Africa since 2003.

“We are teaching them sustainable living; they can do it for themselves at home,” says Setshogoe.

His school started on the programme two years ago and today the 50m by 50m food garden supplements meals the school gets from the school feeding programme. Wessa supplies the school with seeds and also helped advise learners and teachers how to set up a vermicompost (worm farm) system and a tree nursery.

Since 2003 more than 10 229 schools across all provinces have participated in the programme, reaching 400 000 learners and 16 000 teachers. Schools register annually by completing a registration form and sending it to Wessa

Eco-schools skills programme manager Donavan Fullard says the programme gets learners and teachers to identify environmental challenges at their school or in their community and to then set up projects to address these.

Schools have started recycling projects, vegetable gardens or run arts or craft initiatives as part of promoting community heritage.

The idea is for schools in the programme to improve their score on environmental sustainability. If they are able to do so after three years, they achieve green-flag status. So far 2 435 schools have achieved green-flag status.

Natascha Meisler, a teacher from special needs school PT Sanders in Trompsburg in the Free State, says she uses the programme to teach learners how to build their own houses – sometimes out of tyres – and start food gardens. Her class of 18 learners recently completed a skate park out of tyres and are now building an outdoor permaculture classroom.

Permaculture is the practice of producing food and energy using ways that do not deplete the earth's natural resources.

“I’m finding that with this programme kids want to go out there and work,” says
Meisler.   

Contact person: Zanele Khumalo
Wessa Eco-Schools Coordinator
Tel: 011 462 5663 Ext: 220

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