Caretakers of the Earth – kids

Applause and more applause at the end of a play by junior students about the effects of human activity on the environment.

Applause and more applause at the end of a play by junior students about the effects of human activity on the environment.

The story performed by students of the Ntabezwe Junior Secondary School in the Eastern Cape, South Africa portrays a rural farming community where some people have some degree of knowledge of the importance of forests and caring for the ecosystem. Rural communities in the country are led by traditional leaders called Chiefs.

One member of the community is seen burning a tree, and another clearing a piece of forest land for farming purposes. Both are at fault of destroying the ecosystem but neither one is aware. One of them eventually reports the other to the Chief. But it turns out both need to be educated. The assistant to the Chief then explains to the women about existing policies which regulate the protection of the environment.

Young people are our future leaders and this play could not have taken place at a better gathering than at the youth Special Event during the XIV World Forestry Congress. Feelings of admiration, appreciation and honour overcame delegates in the room. Everyone was on their feet clapping and celebrating this inspiring play. “I have never seen such an educational play”, declared Tiina Vahanen, Associate Secretary General of the XIV World Forestry Congress.

The drama is part of the One Tree One Child project, spearheaded by the OR Tambo Municipality. It is aimed at improving the district environmental challenges and adaption to global climate change for food security, livelihoods and secure future generations. The project offers fruit and indigenous trees to children to plant at schools and their homesteads.

Educating children about the importance of caring for the ecosystem is leading a sustainable future. “It (the play) means I have a bright future. I have been taught the importance of trees and taking care of the environment. Trees give us oxygen and prevent soil erosion, said Mihlali Mayoyo, who plays the Chief.

Fourteen years ago I was 13 years old. I had little or no knowledge about the importance of trees. Today, our children are privileged to have an education system that is teaching them about complex subjects such as forestry. It makes one think about how much investment South Africa is making on forestry education.

Students at the Ntabezwe Junior Secondary School have been dramatising subject themes since 2003 and have won competitions in the province. According to their trainer, Pumza Nyama, teaching a child something is an investment because they will pass on the knowledge to the community.

The school has embarked on landscaping and greening by planting a forest which has improved the soil texture. The students are taught about alien plants and they can identify and remove them.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that some people may not know the importance of the ecosystem. The world is affected by, and suffering, the effects of global warming. Investing in forestry education is key.

Blogpost and picture by Jamela Nkanyane – jamela.nkanyane(at)gmail.com

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