Acting Premier Ms Grizelda Cjiekella on the occasion of the NC annual Eco-schools Award Ceremony

21st february 2013.

It is an honour and pleasure for me to deliver this address to the annual Northern Cape Eco-School Awards Ceremony. This occasion is a significant milestone and an important initiative in the South African environmental education landscape.

I am indeed pleased to see that school pupils of all ages and their teachers are all doing their bit to look after our wonderful planet, and make sure that it stays beautiful for generations to come.

We would also like to express our gratitude to all the participating schools in the eco school programme and congratulate the 2013 winners. Well done, we are all proud of you. The creativity and commitment you displayed in the competition should be taken further as you proceed in your careers and lives.

Teachers and education department officials believe they achieve the following benefits through the Programme:

  • The opportunity to enrich learning environments - teachers believe that learners.
  • benefit from hands-on activities, from gaining knowledge and from participating in actions that relate to their local environment.
  • Support for the implementation of the new curriculum.
  • The relevance to the schools’ communities of projects addressing poverty, unemployment, over-consumption, health risks and ignorance.
  • The opportunity to tackle environmental issues and promote awareness, enjoyment and commitment.
  • The opportunities to form and extend partnerships and mobilise both physical resources and knowledge resources.
  • Better school management processes resulting from the action-reflection planning frameworks promoted by the Programme.
  • School visits and sustained support from Programme staff and partners.
    • Creating a more positive attitudes towards the environment;
    • Encourage people to take responsibility for their environment;
    • Changing peoples’ actions;
    • Stimulating an appreciation for nature as we need nature to survive;

Programme Director you will recall that just before the onset of last year’s event the Northern Cape was selected by WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) as the number one performing province in the eco-school programme.

More importantly, last year the same programme, which you so diligently implement in the Northern Cape, was given the silver award at the Batho Pele Premier’s Excellence Awards. We need to applaud ourselves for this significant achievement.

But, why do we place so much importance on the environment and eco-school system. Perhaps, I should remind us all that:

The current condition of our natural environment, the depletion of our natural resources due to human activities has impacted negatively on the earth’s ability to provide for the needs of mankind, plants and animals. The Northern Cape has vast deposits of mineral resources, whether its diamonds, manganese or heavy metals. The opportunity to create much wealth will, however, come at an environmental cost unless we strongly manage the processes.

Programme Director at present the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation has continuous air monitoring equipment installed just outside Postmasburg in the Siyanda Region, while negotiations are taking place with mines in the John Taole Gaetsewe Region for the installation of similar equipment to monitor the air that we breathe. The South African Weather Service will also be installing similar equipment in the Nieuwouldville area late this year. It is also the task of a special environmental inspection team to visit mines in our province on a regular basis.
Over and above, we have ample examples worldwide where man’s economic activities has resulted in different types of pollution, (air, water, soil, etc.); poor waste management practices; deforestation; erosion; depletion and sea life, plants and animal sometimes to the point of extinction, and all the other human impacts.

We believe that it is because of these factors that environmental learning has become an important part of the school curriculum through CAPS, (Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement).

  • Environmental learning is after all about ;
  • Helping us to understand our natural environment better;
  • The importance of the natural environmental to all life on earth;
  • Helping us to seek practical solutions for our environmental challenges;
  • Assisting us to make inform decisions to ensure sustainable use of our natural resources;
  • Giving meaning to the school’s curriculum by using the environment as a learning resource and “classroom” for practical lessons.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a study, done in the United States, has shown that students who engage in their curriculum through environmental issues are:

  • making academic gains and developing higher-level thinking skills.
  • able to deal with complex problems and issues,
  • more resourceful,
  • more strategic thinkers, and
  • more willing to deal with problems.

It is also a fact that most people enjoy connecting with the natural world. Therefore it is important for educators to understand that environmental education is not only beneficial to the learners but it also makes their own task more interesting, stimulating and fun.

  • The Eco-School’s programme :
    • strengthen (Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement ) CAPS as more environmental learning forms part of the school’s curriculum as before;
    • encourage learners, at a young age, to appreciate and accept ownership of our natural environment by conserving it;
    • serves as a cement between the different school stakeholders e.g. community; community structures, NGO’s, etc.
    • introduce careers within the different environmental fields;
    • introduce different competitions to schools and we want to encourage you to enter for these competition. It opens opportunities not only for the benefit of the school ut also for the learners. This morning during the workshop, you were provided with information of already 2 competitions.

As a Department Environment and Nature Conservation wants to enhance cooperative governance through the implementation of the Eco-School’s programme.

We want to encourage you- the educators - to continue with environmental programmes beyond the lifespan of the Eco-School’s programme as the Eco-School’s programme sets the pace and creates the platform for making environmental learning, environmental management and nature conservation a way of life.

As government we believe in putting theory into practice. This is why the Department of Environmental Affairs

  1. has been instrumental in the establishment of three major recycling centres in the province, which in the first ten months of the present financial year no less than 520 879kg of waste was diverted away from landfill sites providing an income to hundreds of people.
  2. The Department of Environment and Nature Conservation has identified the need for green township rejuvenation and is partnering with Northern Cape municipalities, the regional office of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and private nurseries to create a green blanket across the province. By the end of December last year no less than 8372 trees had been planted in the province in terms of its “Talafatsa Buagisanyi - greening my neighborhood” programme and 109 youth employed using EPWP principles to nurture and care for the trees.
  3. A further 120 persons were engaged in cleaning and greening projects aimed at addressing poverty in areas such as Merriman, Phillipstown, Nababeep, Colville, De Aar and Galeshewe. At the heart of all these projects including the Talafatsa Buagisanyi project , is the need to give the present grey and drab townships a green-facelift, especially considering the history of previously disadvantaged areas and to promote biodiversity initiatives. In so doing we hope to bring back a measure of civic pride and community upliftment while improving the environment.
  4. Together with the national Department of Environmental Affairs we have undertaken the upgrade of the five provincial nature reserves at a cost of R174-m. It is our intention that these improvements will provide accessible and affordable facilities to the Northern Cape’s residents on their doorstep. We will also be in a position to provide participants in our eco-school system with real-life environmental experiences.

Programme Director, it is now my pleasure to congratulate and wish all the winners success in their future endeavours. Those schools that did not win do not despair, you must simply try again.

Thank you

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