People and Conservation Officers (P&Cs) are on a drive to increase awareness in schools about the significance of national parks in the Garden Route. “They are hubs where nature is protected for the benefit of current and future generations. They provide services to people including essential services such as water, and health benefits; the park has cycling tracks, hiking trails, picnic spots and excursions into forest areas and water bodies,” said P&C officer for Knysna, Nondumiso Mgwenya.

The campaign hopes to reach as many schools as possible. In Knysna more than 6 000 people were reached by environmental education initiatives in the last year. This number will have increased by the end of March 2020. About 5 090 youngsters and adults were reached by the Wilderness programmes.

In the weeks leading up to the school holidays, the Knysna section’s Mgwenya and her assistant, Thabiso Mokoena, sent an invitation to all public schools in Knysna to join the holiday programme. Knysna Secondary School (Hornlee), Sunridge Primary (Hornlee), Bongani soccer club responded and children of the SANParks staff from the forest areas (Diepwalle and Harkerville) were included in this quarter’s programme.

Working to a theme entitled ‘think blue’ learners were encouraged to think about water in a holistic manner, Thabiso Mokoena explained. “We take the kids through mini-sass where they monitor river health and learn how water samples are taken, we also show them micro-organisms in a river. This time we used the Kranshoek River.”  Thabiso said there are a maximum of 20 children in one group every day.

“We teach them about various pollutants and forest ecology. By using a river that runs through the forest, we can show them how interdependent the system is and how water is the vital component.  Then driving the message home to save water becomes easy after that,” Thabiso added.

The holiday programme lasts for a week.

Wilderness’ P&C Officer, Phumla Nyathikazi says it is important to partner with organisations reaching young people. “Recently we joined a career expo in George targeting young people. We transported youngsters from Sedgefield to the event organised by the Garden Route district municipality. Most youngsters attending the event were from George, Thembalethu and Sedgefield.” She spoke about careers in the conservation sector with a specific focus on SANParks.

Last month 500 learners were hosted in Natures Valley Rest Camp (de Vasselot) by Nobulumko Gantsho in a Kids in Parks Programme.  They spent at least three days in the park learning about nature from rangers, scientists and independent scientists such as the Natures Valley Trust. – South African National Parks