Makana’s Eco-School winners

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Makana’s Eco-School winners

The Eco-Schools Programme Awards for the Makana Node took place on 3 June at Thomas Baines Nature Reserve, where six schools in Grahamstown were recognised for their commitment to environmental sustainability. Siyazama Preschool and St Andrews Prep both received their international flags. The international flag is awarded when schools have been with the programme for five years.

The programme follows a tiered system with schools progressing according to the number of years they have been in the programme, and met the criteria for award which is to demonstrate environmental learning, and take action around environmental issues affecting their community and school.

The first award is a bronze certificate, followed by silver. The first flag that schools can receive is a green flag and then the gold certificate. Following gold is the international flag, proceeded by Platinum with the number of years that schools have been at that level. Kuyasa School received Platinum three, and Kingswood College was awarded Platinum two. Samuel Ntsika received a Gold award while Victoria Primary received their Green flag.

The programme was implemented in South Africa in 2003 by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), who is the coordinating partner in South Africa. The programme is aimed at supporting environmental learning within the school curriculum, and implementing action-orientated programmes for environmental sustainability in schools. The Makana Node is facilitated by the Environmental Learning and Research Centre (ELRC) at Rhodes University under Ms Gladys Tyatya and Ms Priya Vallabh.

The teachers who head up the programme at their schools and those who are wanting to participate next year attended the awards ceremony. Ms Ntanga and Ms Singeni from the Department of Education were also in attendance to congratulate the winning schools. Prof O’Donoghue, Ms Vallabh and Ms Tyatya from the ELRC were also in attendance.

Siyazama Pre-School run a recycling programme as well as a vegetable and herb garden, a small wetland and a cleaning project. Each child has a recycled can with small holes in the bottom which they use to water their garden. Working with the surrounding community, the school has adopted the dump next to the school to ensure that it is kept clean. The school has waterless loos and teaches hygiene in a manner which advocates for the conservation of water.

“Our children learn about the environment such as how to conserve water and how to grow vegetables. The children participate in the vegetable garden and they know that the vegetables they eat everyday come from the garden. The children also participate in cleaning and they each have their own pair of gloves and we also get the parents involved,” shared Ms Baliso of Siyazama Preschool.

“We are very proud to receive our international flag and when we celebrate women’s day on 9August we will also be celebrating our flag,” added MS Baliso.

Workshops are hosted monthly in the Makana Node. The last workshop was hosted by St Andrew’s  Prep who have an Enviro Club. The learners made snacks for the visiting schools and taught everyone how to make an aquarium with an octopus inside. The school has a recycling project with recycling bins and are working hard at reducing their waste footprint. The Enviro club has a green business that raises funds for their projects through selling healthy snacks and other things. Last year they sponsored a polar bear cub in their efforts to address climate change. The money to sponsor a polar bear cub goes to research. Recently, a speaker came to tell the children more about owls and the myths around them as well as why protecting them is so important. This linked well with the Grade 4 Design and Technology owl box project. A Grade 6 group is looking at growing vegetables in a 1.5x1.5m space that could be used to help communities grow veggies effectively with few resources.

“I think the main benefit for children participating in the Eco schools programme is that they are part of a larger community working towards finding solutions for the challenges our planet is facing. Children love nature and want to make a difference and this gives them the opportunity to get involved in action projects,” shared Lynn Cordell. “Prep is very excited about achieving International status. It represents five years of Eco work and portfolios and action projects.”

The schools involved are all actively working to ensure that their community is living sustainably. Kuyasa School has its own vegetable garden where they also grow medicinal plants to make ointments and beauty products. The learners visit retirees where they massage their hands with the homemade ointment.  Samuel Ntsika learners have a school garden where they grow vegetables for school lunches.

Makana Municipality has adopted the schools in terms of sponsoring the registration fees for the schools to participate in the Eco-Schools Programme. The Department of Education and the Umthati training project have also provided support to ensure the programme’s success. A big thank you to Thomas Baines Nature Reserve for providing the venue for the award’s ceremony.