By Andre Marais – Amandla Magazine*
DURBAN, Dec 8 – (TerraViva) Some very enthusiastic and excited teachers and environmentally aware students fresh from completing their year-end exams visited the U.N. climate conference this week.
The group came from at Zwelibanzi High School in Umlazi just outside Durban, a township ravaged by poverty and unemployment and a high incidence of AIDS.
TerraViva spoke to teachers Zonke Msholo, Zamo Mbatha and Busi Ngwenya who seemed as delighted as their young charges as they toured exhibitions and activities at the climate conference.
Q: How has your school involved learners to participate in environmental issues on a practical level?
A: We have many single household families in Umlazi, but also many child-headed families, and they are all going through difficult economic times. So food garden projects become very important as a source of cheap food for our communities.
Learners are centrally involved in planting and caring for these gardens. Despite many challenges, they have proven to be very dedicated and enthusiastic about the gardens.
We have integrated environmental awareness in our school programme and curriculum, in subjects like social science, natural science and life orientation. But we will definitely also take the knowledge and materials we have gathered here and apply them in our teaching.
Q: What are the challenges?
A: I would say it’s maintaining interest from parents and the community, but even that is improving. The school is really a second home for many of our learners. But poverty and malnutrition are made worse by AIDS and the cost of HIV to families.
Q: What support do you receive from the education department?
A: They provide the feeding scheme which our food gardens supplement. The department has encouraged our initiative, but of course more can be done.
Q: How many of your learners do you think will consider environmental jobs as a career option?
A: Well, many of them already have an interest in the area of science. We must wait and see…
* Community media coverage of COP 17 is being supported by the Media Development & Diversity Agency of South Africa, which is promoting the participation of local journalists through a programme of training and reporting on climate change.