Emerald award for two ‘actively green’ KZN schools

Pupils at The Birches Pre-Primary School work on the garden project.

Pupils at The Birches Pre-Primary School work on the garden project.

Published Apr 13, 2024


Durban — Two KwaZulu-Natal schools were awarded for actively engaging in eco-friendly practices, environmental education and initiatives for two decades.

Epworth School in Pietermaritzburg and The Birches Pre-Primary School in Sarnia, Durban, which are part of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) eco-schools initiative, were honoured with Emerald awards for their sustained dedication to environmental action over 20 years.

Wessa is a non-profit organisation dedicated to advocating for sustainable solutions, conservation, and environmental awareness. It hosted the EcoSchools Awards, honouring the transformative impact of the eco-schools programme in South Africa.

For the past 20 years, the eco-schools initiative has been promoting sustainability and conservation practices in schools and communities.

Wessa eco-schools have taken the lead in environmental education, equipping pupils, teachers, and local communities with the knowledge and tools to champion environmental stewardship, encouraging a culture of environmental responsibility.

More than 2 300 schools have registered for the programme, engaging more than 1.3 million pupils and 32 000 teachers in direct and indirect environmental education efforts.

The Birches Pre-Primary School sells some of its produce at its farm stall. SUPPLIED

The Birches Pre-Primary School principal Bronwen Aiston said the former principal, Scilla Edmonds, who retired last year after 32 years, was the driving force behind the success of Birches as a sustainable campus.

“The Birches started ‘greening’ the school in 1994 by starting an eco club for Grade R called the Adventure Club. Since 2000 every child in the school has been a member of an eco club.

“The 3-4-year-olds group have a Garden Club, the 4-5-year-olds group have Young Explorers, and the Adventure Club is for those in Grade R.

“We joined eco-schools in 2004 and since then have been working towards developing a sustainable living campus. The school has two tunnels in which the children grow herbs and vegetables to eat and to sell.

“Other projects include the recycling centre, the fruit forest and the farm stall where much of the produce and plants are sold.”

Pupils at The Birches Pre-Primary School involved in the garden project.

Aiston said the school motto was “The outdoor classroom is as important as the indoor one”.

Wessa schools programme manager Nomfundo Ndlovu said she was proud of the accomplishments of participating schools and the enduring impact of the eco-schools programme.

“These awards reflect the dedication and passion of our teachers and pupils towards environmental awareness and action.”

Ndlovu said The Birches Pre-Primary School had evolved into a hub of learning and sustainability.

Epworth School’s recycling project serves both the school and the wider community.

“The environment isn’t just a backdrop – it’s a primary tool for teaching numeracy, literacy and essential life skills. Within this innovative curriculum, activities such as recycling, water harvesting, cultivating food and fostering entrepreneurship seamlessly blend in.

“Epworth played a pioneering role in environmental sustainability as one of the initial participants in the eco-schools pilot programme.

“As one of the first two schools in South Africa to join this initiative, Epworth demonstrated a commitment to fostering eco-consciousness.

“Epworth established a significant recycling centre within its premises, serving not only its school community but extending its services as a drop-off point for the wider community,” she said.

Busi Dladla, director for curriculum general education and training, said that by incorporating Wessa eco-schools activities into the curriculum, teachers provided pupils with practical experiences that enhanced their learning outcomes while nurturing a culture of sustainability.

Independent on Saturday