Nottingham Road school Shea O’Connor Combined has notched up another environmental education achievement, this time emerging as Water Explorer’s “top team” and securing selection for the UN’s environmental project, the “Global Search for Sustainable Schools”.
This on the back of its efforts in reducing plastic use, rehabilitating wetlands, growing their own food and participating in climate strikes.
“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 from Shea O’Connor Combined.
“Being part of the ‘Search for Sustainable Schools’, has definitely helped our school to ensure a more sustainable future through the action projects we have implemented”.
Seven of SA’s top “Water Explorer” teams gathered at The Birches Pre-primary in Queensburgh near Durban late last month to present their environmental efforts and celebrate their successes for being selected by a new project of UNEP (UN Environmental Programme), the “Global Search for Sustainable Schools”.
All seven will be recipients of additional funding next year to help realise some of their environmental “dreams”. They are Shea O’Connor; Phumelelani, Ebomvini and Scottsville primary schools; Obed Mlaba Technical and Danville Park Girls high schools and The Birches Pre-Primary. Each shared their unique story of how they had made a difference to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals during the year.
While all schools were winners, Shea O’Connor was awarded the Top Team Tap Trophy for Water Explorer SA. Some of their efforts included safe-guarding and rehabilitating a wetland within their school; banning plastic outright, which has several fantastic benefits including pupils eating less junk food and reduced litter; ensuring rainwater harvesting is a priority; growing their own food organically and selling surplus to local markets; and making their voices heard and joining in on global climate strikes this year.
International online event
The school will be representing SA in the International Water Explorer online event on November 12 when more than 10 countries will vie to be selected as overall international “winner”.
“We are thrilled to have this honour,” said teacher and co-ordinator Antonia Mkhabela of the Shea O’Connor team. “Water explorer activities have assisted us (teachers) and learners to engage fully with solid knowledge regarding environmental issues. Learners have developed conceptual depth and understanding of environment and sustainability.”
The event was celebrated at The Birches Pre-primary in Queensburgh, which emulates sustainability in every sense. From food forests, to rainwater harvesting and permaculture gardens it was clear that an environmental ethic should be nurtured from a very young age.
Low water and carbon footprint
The lunch provided on the day was as much of a celebration, and reflected the ethos of the programmes, having a low water and carbon footprint menu. Sorghum salad, spicy beans and sweet potato curry and fresh greens was followed by a “Water Explorer” carrot cake. All ingredients were sourced locally within 30km.
Pupil Ayanda Shabalala said the programme had encouraged her to change her eating habits after learning about the impact meat has on water resources. She was astounded to learn how much water it takes to produce just one burger and is committed to eating beef no more than once a week.
In closing, Pandelani Dzhugudza from the education directorate of the national department of environmental affairs, said it was inspiring to see young children take charge and become agents of change.
“I will be sharing these good news stories about sustainability in action with the national office,” she said.
Water Explorer is an online environment education programme (www.waterexplorer.org) 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, ACT (African Conservation Trust) in South Africa.
Copy – Bridget Ringdahl
Main picture: Shea O’Connor representatives, Ayanda Shabalala, Atonia Mkhabela and Simangaliso Dlamini. Picture: Supplied