SANParks, through Environmental Awareness (EA) programmes, promotes environmental ethics whilst facilitating understanding and appreciation of the SANParks mandate.
Environmental Awareness enhances understanding and awareness of environmental issues, thereby promoting action taking and building support and appreciation for conservation. About 300 000 learners per annum benefited from the SANParks EA programme.
Park-Based Environmental Education
A number of parks have dedicated Environmental Education Center and some have overnight facilities for educational purposes. Over and above the centres, there are dedicated sites for educational purposes like bush camps, heritage sites, sites of geomorphological importance etc.
The programmes are categorised according to different focus areas and target audiences.
Kudu Green School Initiative (KGSI)
The programme is designed for schools in the Gauteng province. It raises awareness of environmental issues with a particular focus on Climate Change. Learners are provided with the opportunity to visit Marakele and Golden Gate Highlands National Parks due to their close proximity to Gauteng Province. The programme encourages learners to implement their learning experience in the form of projects to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change at their schools and in their local environment. These include projects to mitigate and adapt against the effects of Climate Change such as air pollution, environmental degradation, energy-saving initiatives etc. Since the inception of the programme, over 22 985 learners benefited.
Heritage Education School Outreach Programme (HESOP)
The HESOP is a joint initiative of the National Heritage Council (Custodian of the programme), National Department of Basic Education (DBE), South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), Brand SA and SANParks. The programme aims to raise awareness among young people about the importance of national heritage resources and a better understanding of the interdependence of cultures; provides the learners with the opportunity to learn about the heritage resources found in their national parks (including national parks as their heritage), as well as create a healthy debate among participants on the value of their heritage. This annual programme, which hosts 1500 learners from all provinces, is presented in a form of a competition, starting at the school level, districts and provincial level, with the winning school from each province competing in a weeklong event taking place in one of the national parks. In that week, learners are given the opportunity to explore the national park as a heritage and do a project which will then be presented to the judges. Over 15 000 learners participated in the programme.
The Junior Rangers Project is a conservation-focused initiative, targeting youth between the ages of 12 to 18 years. The project provides conservation ethos for youth by mobilizing them towards service in national parks. It offers structured training comprising of theory, fieldwork and adventure over a period of nine months through contact sessions which expose them to hands-on activities in their nearest park. Junior Rangers are rewarded for participation and move through 4 levels based on their commitment and understanding of conservation and South African National Parks. Over the years, a significant number of Junior Rangers have gone through the programme.
Walk and Learn on the Wildside (WALOW)
The WALOW programme targets high school pupils (specifically Grades 10 and 11) from neighbouring communities. The project exposes learners to conservation and tourism-related careers. The project focuses on schools in surrounding communities bordering national parks. Each year over 400 children are exposed to this programme and it creates a good foundation for those students that want to follow a conservation-related career. To date, 9, 496 learners and 397 tourism educators attended the programme. Annually, about R1.2m is spent on this project sponsored through the partnership with Total Energies.
Youth Conservation Programme
The Youth Conservation programme aims to mobilise youth around conservation in a way that would stress the importance of every individual playing a role in the protection of SA’s natural wealth, while simultaneously highlighting the possibilities for social-economic upliftment through biodiversity conservation. The programme targets youth who have passed matric and are currently unemployed, between the ages of 18 – 26. Participants apply to take part in the structured programme and are required to attend all 6 sessions of the programme. Some bursaries are awarded to deserving youth to further studies in conservation. Golden Gate Highlands National Park is participating in this programme, sponsored by DFFE.
National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC)
In September 2019, in collaboration with the Department of Rural Development SANParks initiated a two-year youth training programme for one hundred and 97 young people from communities living in and around Kruger National Park. On completion of the programme, the participants will be matched with job and business opportunities identified by the park. The first phase of the programme was Leadership Training, which took place in Bloemfontein from September to November 2019. The 197 participants were presented with information to enable them to make informed career choices.
This programme is implemented in national parks to reach out to schools and community members, to raise awareness on environmental issues in communities and schools; as well as encourage the implementation of projects to mitigate against issues identified. Environmental calendar days are also commemorated by the participants. A significant number of participants are reached through outreach, averaging 300 000 per annum. One of the success stories is the Annual National Science Week.