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SAEON joins forces with DEA to train teachers and learners

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Florence Gamani, National Coordinator of DEA’s annual Lead Teacher Environmental Conference, addresses the audience

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Fadli Wagiet gives an overview of the state of environmental education in schools

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Over a hundred teachers came to share their environmental projects under the themes biodiversity, climate change, waste management and alien invasive challenges

By Thomas Mtontsi, Education Officer, SAEON Egagasini Node

SAEON’s Egagasini Node is hosted by the Oceans and Coasts Branch of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in Cape Town.

Through the years, DEA Oceans and Coasts partnered with the Egagasini Node in several events organised as part of SAEON’s schools programme in the Western Cape. During the National Marine Week programme, for instance, DEA supported the SAEON Egagasini Cluster with in-kind sponsorship.

Strengthening collaboration

Earlier this year, DEA introduced the Egagasini Node’s staff members to Florence Gamani, National Coordinator of DEA’s annual Lead Teacher Environmental Conference (LTEC). The conference is an initiative of the ‘Working for Water’ unit of DEA that has previously been with the Department of Water Affairs. Since being moved into DEA, Gamani has been looking to work with various educational initiatives within the department. She was referred to SAEON as a possible key collaborator.

Gamani and Thomas Mtontsi, Education Officer at the Egagasini Node, started collaborating on each other’s programmes. In June, Thomas was invited to adjudicate in the regional LTEC. SAEON’s inputs led to an invitation to attend the national event.

The conference presents a platform where teachers share a wide range of environmental projects with their peers. These projects focus on biodiversity, climate change, waste management and /or alien invasive challenges. From the regional conferences, adjudicators select representatives for the national conference, where the different provinces showcase their projects (similar to the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, but not as competitive, since the primary objective is to share the work rather than competing).

This platform also provides an opportunity to network with different stakeholders and teachers of different provinces. Key stakeholders range from officials of the Department of Education to Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) Eco-schools and SAEON.

Various challenges are addressed at these conferences, ranging from presentation skills, environmental content, innovativeness and passion. Often the skills the teachers acquire at these conferences result in more professionally presented lessons. The conference also serves to enhance the quality of environmental content in the school curriculum.

Environmental Debate for learners

A sister programme is the Environmental Debate for Grade 8 and 9 learners, which hones the research and presentation skills of the learners and helps them prepare well thought out arguments. SAEON has been involved in the debate through adjudication and feedback at the regional (Western Cape) and national Environmental Debates.

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The Western Cape team for the Lead Teacher Environmental Conference, which included teachers from Cape Town and George, with Thomas Mtontsi, the SAEON Egagasini Node's Education Officer (front row, left)

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