Durban - "The name iSimangaliso means a Miracle or Amazing natural beauty that has a sea and a lake and if you're a birding enthusiast, you can enjoy birdwatching of 526 bird species," writes one local high school pupil.
"I enjoy visiting the iSimangaliso Wetland Park because I get to watch different kinds of animals and plants and enjoy being taught how wild animals live," writes another.
"Hopefully you will enjoy reading my letter and teach other people to take care of nature," writes a primary school pupil.
These are some of the excerpts of letters written in celebration of African World Heritage Day on May 5, by local school children from KZN to their counterparts in the Seychelles, describing the natural beauty of their local wildlife and heritage.
The programme pioneered by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and the Seychelles Island Foundation inspired the pupils to exchange information about the two World Heritage Sites.
The aim of the day is to increase global awareness of African heritage. A number of activities were organised on the continent to celebrate this day, with a special focus on the active involvement of youth as future custodians of our irreplaceable cultural and natural heritage.
In the Seychelles, pupils from the Aldabra and Vallee de Mai World Heritage Sites wrote letters to pupils living in and around iSimangaliso. Through poems, pictures and stories, the pupils from each site shared experiences of their unique natural heritage.
Mrs Khambule, an teacher at Echwebeni, said: “One of the great things about being a neighbouring school to iSimangaliso is that we get free access to the park for an educational trip. This gives our pupils a perfect opportunity to learn about their World Heritage Site and their natural and cultural values. This is how we create future conservationists who will conserve South Africa’s natural and cultural landscape.”
The South African pupils were very excited to share their part of the world with another country.
“This exchange gives us an opportunity to create a relationship with schools in the Seychelles. We also want the pupils in the Seychelles to see how beautiful iSimangaliso is and how many rare animals and plants we have. We want them to see how special iSimangaliso is to us,” said Mxolisi Mgenge, a pupil at Ikusasalethu High.
Mrs Gumede, deputy principal of the Ikusasalethu High, said the knowledge exchange had a positive effect . “Our pupils feel special now that they can communicate with other children in the Seychelles… they are even more participative in class."
Sifiso Vumase, environmental education officer at the iSimangaliso Authority, was deeply impressed by the teachers and pupils of Ikusasalethu High and Echwebeni Primary. “These schools were so ready to participate and you can see that pupils put so much effort into their letters. They really wanted the Seychelles to see what they learnt at iSimangaliso and how much fun they had on their visit to the park. It is great to see the passion pupils have for iSimangaliso”.
Maria Brioche, education and outreach officer at the Seychelles Island Foundation noted that their foundation is “very interested in doing this exchange with the children living near the iSimangaliso, as it is a great opportunity to strengthen the ties between fellow African UNESCO World Heritage Sites”.