The excited young people as they arrive at the park. Photo: Supplied

SANParks-Marakele National Park’s annual kids in park programme started on Wednesday the 26th July at the Thutong Environmental Education Centre.  

This programme which runs for three days per group aims to expose children from nearby previously disadvantaged schools to the importance of national parks and teach them about the parks as their natural and cultural heritage.
Most, if not all of the learners usually welcome the opportunity to be exposed to wildlife in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. These programme usually covers map work, water conservation, global warming amongst others and in the end the children are encouraged to be ambassadors of these issues in their schools and communities.

Over 500 learners from areas such as Thabazimbi, Vaalwater and Dwaalboom will get the opportunity to participate in this year’s programme, this is according to Park Manager, Mr Mphadeni Nthangeni who said “Since this programme was introduced to the park we see it adding such value to our learners and therefore feel honoured that although it’s a hectic season but we are able to impart valuable knowledge to the young people in our communities.

Nthangeni was also quick to add that before the kids’ programme, there was a teachers’ workshop which takes all the teachers on the programme and what they should expect from the learners once they are back in the class. “We take this seriously and would not want it to fall by the way, and therefore equip the teachers so that after the say at the Thutong Centre, then they continue re-enforcing the messages in the classroom”.

In the past, the highlight of the three day stay in the park has always been the interpretative drives and bush walks in the Park as well as the Prize giving ceremony which takes place on the morning of departure “The prize giving makes them to be very attentive and participate in the programme and make it worthwhile for the facilitators.” concluded Nthangeni.

The programme is made possible through the partnership that SANParks has with the Provincial Department of Education, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and Pick’ ‘n Pay who always ensure that these kids are fed with nutritional meals throughout their stay in the Park.
This year’ season started on the 26th July and will run until 01 September with at least a group each week.