We're happy to answer any questions you may have about Ecokidz! Here are some that we're frequently asked.
When did Ecokidz start?
Sefapane has taken local underprivileged children to Kruger Park for many years; however the current comprehensive Sefapane EcoKidz programme started in 2016.
How many kids have you taken to Kruger?
2017: 320 learners on a two-day camp into a nature reserve that is part of Greater Kruger Park
2018: 125 learners to CARE Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education, to learn more especially about baboons (a much despised animal by the local people) and human- wildlife conflict
750 learners on a full-day excursion to Kruger National Park
100 learners learners on a two-day camp into a nature reserve that is part of Greater Kruger Park.
We undertake several different excursions, to give learners a broad experience.
For 2019, we hope to include even more experiences as well as increase our numbers further.
Where do they come from?
Every single week, we teach a carefully designed environmental education programme at ten local underprivileged primary schools in Lulekani and Namakgale, rural communities nearby the town of Phalaborwa. These communities literally live along the borders of Kruger National Park. The programme seeks to inform and empower children with the knowledge, skills and passion to protect the natural environment. The Kruger National Park (KNP) and surrounding game reserves are world leaders in the field of nature conservation. However, many people in the local communities adjoining the Kruger National Park have felt excluded from the benefits as well as access to KNP. Most children from the communities around Phalaborwa have never visited KNP although they are living only a few km away from the gate! Unfortunately their families cannot afford such an excursion and the whole concept of nature conservation and eco-tourism is relatively unknown to them.
How do you select the kids?
We approached primary schools that were recommended by the local officer from the South African Department of Education. We started with eight schools; currently we work with ten schools, and many more are on the waiting list. Schools need to write a motivational letter, why they want to join the programme and why we should partner with them. The curriculum that we have developed together with our partner Nourish NPO is aimed at learners from grade 5-7 (age 10-13 under normal circumstances, though in these areas many children take longer to finish school). Depending on the school, we teach one or more of these grades. Some schools go ‘all in’ immediately, whilst others start with one grade and add more the next year. Many schools are quite large, and have two or even three classes per grade. For the excursions, we select the most motivated learners. Partly this is because at this stage we do not have enough funding to take each and every learner (currently over 2,500 in our programme!) on excursion every year. But we also believe that the excursions should not just be any outing, but a reward for learners that take an interest. The Environmental Monitors give out written tests before and after every lesson series, to check the progress of individual learners. Learners are also given homework, which they present in class. Over time, more and more conservation projects have enriched the curriculum; projects which learners undertake during and after school. The Environmental Monitors observe ‘their’ children, and select them based on their performance, motivation and behaviour in the class. The schools have reported that the behaviour of learners has significantly improved since the start of the EcoKidz programme, as kids are keen to join!
Who funds Ecokidz?
We joined forces with Kruger 2 Canyons Biosphere Region NPO, who sponsored the salaries of the Environmental Monitors – young women from the local communities - we needed. We also approached local government primary schools in Namakgale and Lulekani, communities nearby the town of Phalaborwa. The Environmental Monitors started teaching at nine schools: every week, they would visit grade 5-7 learners (aged 10-13 normally, though in some primary schools learners were up to 17 years of age) and teach them about the environment, wild animals, and conservation and sustainability issues.
At the end of 2016, we ran the first two-day camps in nature with the most motivated learners as a pilot. Beginning of 2017, we also partnered with TUI Care Foundation. With their funding, we were able to supplement the environmental curriculum taught at the schools with conservation projects like planting trees and vegetables gardens at the schools, community clean up campaigns, recycling projects. Moreover, it enabled us to take many learners on excursions, so that they would get to meet their natural heritage –and especially the wild animals – often for their very first time. Two-day camps in nature were supplemented in 2018 by full-day trips to Kruger National Park.
For 2019 and beyond, we aim to continue and expand the work we do, so stay tuned!
How can I get involved?
Even with the great partnerships we currently have, more help is still required to make sure we can keep the EcoKidz programme going. Perhaps you are willing to donate your time, for example to share the EcoKidz story with others, to organize a fundraising event, or to find companies who are willing to sponsor. And perhaps you would also like to support a project yourself. Look for some ideas under services, or contact us for more information and ideas!