The Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC), an important, significant and timely university-community facility at Rhodes University (RU) was officially opened today 13th September, 2012. The meeting commenced with a welcome address by the Director of the centre, a rear gem and the ‘golden girl of the Rhodes University’, who has held the Murray and Robert Chair of Environmental Education at Rhodes University since 1990, Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka. In her address she acknowledged the presence and impact of people who have made the centre what it is today, without which the ELRC would have been nameless.
The ELRC was developed as a partnership between the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs (DEDEA), Makana Municipality and Rhodes University, with funding that was channelled through the South African National Biodiversity Institute as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), in order to develop the Makana Botanical Gardens and link it to the education activities in the university and community.
It was an event graced by distinguished guests of honour including the Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Ms Nosipho Ngcabe, who represented the Minister and opened the building and other senior officials; the acting DDG of the Department of Water Affairs Mr Mbangi Nepfumbada and other senior officials; the advisor to the Minister of the Department of Water Environmental Affairs, Prof Nkondo; the CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)who made a speech , Dr Tanya Abrahamse who also made a speech; Counsellor of the Makana Municipality, Julia Wells, who made a speech; the Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr Sizwe Mabizela; and Senior officials of neighbouring universities in the Eastern Cape.
Other notable audience included the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Prof Di Wilmot; the Deputy Dean, Prof Jean Baxen; Prof Tally Palmer; Prof Pat Irwin and Dr Eureta Rosenberg who are founders of the environmental education programme at RU; delegates attending the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) conference; their president, Dr Justin Lupele; members of the SADC Secretariat and the SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme; 15 PhD alumni of the ELRC; current PhD and Masters scholars; friends and families.
A vote of thanks was offered on behalf of Rhodes University and the ELRC to all the speakers at the ceremony and all the partners who have made the building a reality. Appreciation was also given to those who practically contributed to the ‘building of the building’ including the architect, Hillary Saunders; the building company, VELA VKE; the RU Estate Division; Mark Hazell, Phillip Crous and other members of the RU grounds and garden unit; Councillor Julia Wells and Ndumiso Nongwe from Makana Municipality who hosted the building meeting and ensured that the meeting went well according to plan and Prof Rob O’Donoghue who carried the vision of the building’s activities and shared it with the builders, architects, decorators and everyone involved. A vote of thanks was also given to the management of RU for their support, their willingness to take on the running costs of the ELRC building, as well as the management of the Makana Botanical Gardens.
Finally, the 2012 edition of the ‘Dialogue’ publication was introduced and made available to the audience. This is an annual publication of the ELRC which provides a glimpse of the teaching, learning and research undertaken at the ELRC; a multi-dimensional kind of work that is needed to create more sustainable and just society. The event ended with a cocktail party.