By Allen Tshautshau
It is argued that the concept of Environmental Education is quite recent in South Africa due to prior 1994 academic disparities. However, it must be mentioned with praise that the dawn of the democratic South Africa has presented the broader society the opportunities to fill the above mentioned gap. To date, various national educational frameworks advocates for the integration of environmental themes into various school subjects (now called learning areas). Due to the lack of human capacity and resources by a majority of schools across the country, a numerous radical public-private partnerships has emerged, such as the collaboration between environmental bodies (both governmental or NGO’s) and local schools. Without naming or shaming anyone here, let me say that most of these institutions has had astonishing success albeit facing various challenges. Despite the glamour and glory on how as nation we have managed to make Environmental Education statutory, environmental problems such as pollution, land degradation and deforestation still persist in most of the South African communities (particularly the poor).
It’s high time now for fostering radical ways of sending the messages about environmental management, and sustainable development using our national school’s curriculum, and other mechanisms such as Municipality’s Environmental Education and Awareness Strategies effectively. Some may argue that we have some of the best policies (at least in Africa) to fulfil this call. True hey, but the matter here is not all about adding some more pages to our current policy documents, of course all is good on paper, but the implementation levels of these policies is lagging behind. On my side, I blame the lack of political will to promote environmental awareness. If only environmental issue like climate change were given an equal share of the political drive as HIV/AIDS in terms of education and awareness, South Africans of race and colour would understand the current environmental challenges we are facing much better as they do to HIV/AIDS. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we must take the money to buy ARV’s, and invest it all into teaching people how to plant indigenous trees or their importance therefore, but I am only attempting to highlight the seemingly moderate political will that is often allocated to environmental education and awareness in South Africa.
However, I must point out that we all have a citizenry obligation as teachers, environmental activists, well informed members of the society, and NGO’s to educate the public about environmental issues that the country is currently facing, advocate for sustainable development. So, let’s join hands as South Africans, and make use of the existing environmental economic opportunities in recycling, permaculture, commercialising of indigenous knowledge technologies as tools to educate communities about the environment. Most importantly, one appeals to the South African businesses to put Environmental Education as one of the priorities in their corporate social investment projects, because NGO’s, government environmental education initiatives, and activists in the same course needs you now more than before. - Allen Tshautshau is an Environmental Control Officer and South African National Antarctic Programme’s Deputy Team Leader at Marion Island
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