Nature Conservation Department plants a seed for environmental protection

Sithembile Nkosi, middle, with the winners – Cebolenkosi Mathenjwa, left, and Mlungisi Kheswa

It has been said that a pledge is very powerful; it rules a person’s life. This is the reason Sithembile Nkosi, a Lecturer in the Department of Nature Conservation, and her team of students decided to invite Umlazi Township’s Ndukwenhle High School grade 11 learners to pledge that they would do their best to protect the environment. With their hands raised, while first saying ‘I raise my hand, my school is green’, the learners took this pledge at the University’s North Campus on 20 November 2023, where they competed among each other, giving presentations on how human beings have negatively impacted the environment, and what could be done to reverse the damage.

Giving more reasons for focusing on the young minds, Nkosi said they chose Ndukwenhle High School because there is a lot of environmental degradation around the school.  “Empowering the learners with the right skills to deal with the problem and planting a correct attitude in their minds would go some way in making the situation better. The school offers subjects that are relevant to the Ecosystems Rehabilitation and Restoration programme, which the department runs.  We decided to work with a school in the township of its proximity, and because of the University’s Anchor Strategy, which requires the University to prioritise working with the immediate communities.  We made the learners understand ecosystems as a whole,” Nkosi said.

The learners’ presentation was based on real data, collected in a professional way, as Nkosi described. The project was supported by the eThekwini Municipality, which donated plants to Ndukwenhle High School. The winners were Cebolenkosi Mathenjwa, and Mlungisi Kheswa. They called themselves Ubuhlebemvelo. The two grade 11 learners said they decided to have a practical presentation to make a lasting impression that would be different from others’ presentations. They talked about the role of wetlands ecosystems, the threats they face, and conservation measures needed to deal with the threats. They were awarded with medals, which Nkosi said were eco-friendly. Other groups that took part in the competition were Green Defenders, Eco Florists, and Nature Celebrities.

The judges said they were very impressed by the knowledge shown by the grade 11 learners. Conservation expert, Professor Dumisile Hlengwa from the Durban University of Technology, said the learners used appropriate words that show their understanding of the issue they were dealing with.  Nkosi said that next year they include more Umlazi Township schools.