Green, but not naive

2011-10-12 00:00

SCHOOLBOY Siseko Kumalo (16) has wisdom beyond his years and great plans for the environment and the country.

As the recently appointed regional leader of Progress’ Nature Conservation Ranger Organisation (P’NCRO) he is passionate about two things — youth and the natural world.

This Maritzburg College pupil has many interests outside school that keep him busy, but he has still managed­ to keep his grades above average.

He loves participating in the debating club and he sings in the school and church choirs. But his real interest is the environment.

“My mother got me interested because she is a teacher at Hopewell JSS and she got her school registered as an eco-school. She always spoke about her work and I thought we could do something like that at our school.”

Kumalo decided to take the idea of becoming an eco-school to the Representative Council of Learners.

“They loved the idea. But we first had to convince the teachers so we suggested that we include an environmental element to every subject. Many of them were excited. Others were apprehensive.”

Kumalo chatted to people at the local­ branch of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) about the eco-schools project and he was encouraged to apply­ to become a member of the Project 90 Youth Forum.

He was chosen as one of 20 candidates from many hopefuls to attend the forum. For the teenager it was an eye-opening experience. He became immersed in a world where global politics coincided with green activism and environmental challenges.

“I was inspired and I came away from the conference as a regional head of Progress’ Nature Conservation Ranger Organisation.”

His challenge now is to take this fledgling regional branch and guide it to become an operative and functional operation.

He says they are aiming to tackle two main issues — creating jobs for the youth through their various projects and educating people about the various ways they can create sustainable projects using recycled materials,­ and promoting conservation principles.

“We are hoping to establish an arts and crafts centre in Elandskop where members would use recycled materials.

“In another case we want to establish a community vegetable garden in Slangspruit and encourage members­ to supply the local supermarket.”

His sister Zenande has started an environmental group at Alexandra High School and together with Girls’ High School, the schools are working together.

“We are hoping to encourage other environmental youth groups to join us,” says Kumalo. “We also need support from local municipalities and we would appreciate any advice from existing organisations.

“We will obviously learn as we go along. In the future we would like to have the resources to lobby the government. We would like to act on behalf of the youth and review all government policy amendments that affect us.”

These are brave words for a young man, but it seems he has always loved politics and in Grade 5 he did a study on how microeconomics would benefit the greater economy of South Africa.

His family is proud of him.

“There are three of us greenies in the family now — my mom, Phindile, my sister, Zenande, and me. My dad, Msawenkosi works as a forestry manager­. It’s his job to cut down trees. We tease him a lot,” says the young man. “But he reminds us that he pays the bills.”

 

•  If you would like to help or contact Siseko Kumalo e-mail him at skumalo8@gmail.com

 

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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