A RURAL KwaZulu-Natal Midlands school has taken top honours in a national programme that encourages water conservation and implementing the UN’s sustainable development goals.
Shea O’Connor Combined School will now represent South Africa at the International Water Explorer online event on 12 November.
The Nottingham Road school and six other Water Explorer finalist schools have also been selected for a new United Nations Global Search for Sustainable Schools project.
The schools – Shea O’Connor Combined; Phumelelani, Embovini and Scottsville primary schools; Obed Mlaba Technical; Danville Park Girls High; and The Birches Pre-Primary – will receive funding in 2020 to help them realise some of their environmental projects.
The finalists, a mix of rural, city, high and primary schools, presented their projects and celebrated selection for the United Nations Environment Programme at a function at The Birches Pre-primary, in Queensburgh, Durban.
“As a Water Explorer I have experienced so many new things like presenting to this audience today. I have learned the value of looking after our environment completely, as without it we are nothing, ” said Zonlani Ntombela, of Shea O’Connor Combined at the 31 October event.
“Being part of Water Explorer and the ‘Search for Sustainable Schools’, has definitely helped our school to ensure a more sustainable future through all the action projects we have implemented,” he said.
Antonia Mkhabela, a Shea O’Connor teacher and the team coordinator, said: “We are thrilled to have this honour.”
She said the online Water Explorer programme had equipped teachers and pupils with “solid knowledge”, helping them to better understand sustainability.
Bridget Ringdahl, Water Explorer programme manager in South Africa, said Shea O’Connor Combined won its Top Team Tap Trophy for exemplary efforts which included:
- Safe-guarding and rehabilitating a wetland within the school;
- Banning plastic – which led to pupils eating less junk food and reducing litter;
- Making rainwater harvesting a priority;
- Growing food organically and selling the surplus to local markets; and
- Making their voices heard and joining climate strikes.
Ringdahl also praised award ceremony hosts, The Birches Pre-Primary, for emulating “sustainability in every sense”.
“From food forests, to rainwater harvesting and permaculture gardens, it was clear an environmental ethic should be nurtured from a very young age.”
She even complimented the lunch the school served as being in keeping with the spirit of the programme.
“The lunch was as much of a celebration, which reflected the ethos of the programmes having a low water and carbon footprint menu. The delicious sorghum salad, spicy beans and sweet potato curry and fresh greens was followed by a Water Explorer carrot cake. All the ingredients were sourced locally within 30km,” said Ringdahl.
Pandelani Dzhugudza, of the education directorate of the National Department of Environmental Affairs, said he was inspired to see “young children taking charge and becoming agents of change”.
“I will be sharing these good news stories about sustainability in action with the national office,” he said.
- Water Explorer is an online environment education programme supported by GAP UK. The Global Search for Sustainable Schools project is supported by IGES, UNEP and the Ministry of Environment Japan. Both projects are implemented by local partner African Conservation Trust in South Africa. – Roving Reporters