WINDHOEK, SEPT. 5 – Over the past two and half years thousands of Namibian youngsters have stepped out of their classroom and back into nature to experience a unique outdoor learning experience through the Khomas Environmental Education Programme (KEEP).
KEEP is an initiative of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and has in the past two and half years played a key role in promoting the importance of environmental education in Namibia.
Most of the students who have taken part in the KEEP programme hail from less privileged backgrounds and under-resourced schools, and together with their teachers, the day spent with GCF’s eco-educators in the outdoor classroom at the Daan Viljoen Game Reserve outside of Windhoek is a first.
During the field trips, students have encountered a variety of animals and animal behaviours, including firm favourites such as baboons, wildebeest and giraffe.
On a recent field trip earlier this year, a lucky class even encountered an approximately 2 metre or longer python.
“This was an exciting experience for both students and teachers alike, most of whom had never seen a snake before and were rather scared initially,” one participant noted on his feedback after the trip.
MEET NATURE, KIDS
The KEEP programme is closely linked to the Namibian national school curriculum, students and teachers engage with topics from their syllabus and apply concepts that are already familiar from the classroom, while spending a day in the bush in a fun, interactive and hands-on experience.
The programme consists of a 3.5 kilometre hike that takes students and their teachers away from book bound facts into real life experiences. A follow-up quiz game has shown that the day in the bush allows students to acquire valuable new skills and knowledge.
KEEP is aimed at allowing urban youth to reconnect to nature and to build a culture of environmental awareness, social responsibility and action, in addition to understanding the impact of humans on their environment and vice versa.
GCF has stated that environmental education can “equip Africa’s future leaders, and indeed all Namibians, with the skills to live more sustainably and ultimately to improve their living conditions.”
Shortly after the launch of KEEP, GCF stated that there was a clear gap and need for a targeted environmental education programme in Namibia based on feedback by participants.
In a report, GCF wrote that “of all the schools and groups that have joined, less than a third currently have any kind of environmental activities and even fewer have the resources and are able to expose their students to other environmental education opportunities.”
Moreover, with deep budget cuts faced by schools during the economic downturn, there are concerns that environmental education will continue to slide down the scale of priorities.
Private initiatives such as the GCF’s KEEP programme can ensure that students are still afforded the opportunity to step out of their classrooms and learn about their natural environment.
Nedbank Namibia’s Go Green Fund, a non-profit fund which supports individuals and organisations working towards a sustainable future for Namibians as well as for Namibia’s species and habitats, is a proud sponsor of KEEP.
“KEEP has made a big difference in the lives of Namibians – directly and indirectly. Not only is it benefiting primary level children, but at the end of the day, it benefits us all – our communities and our wildlife,” explains Gernot de Klerk, Head: Marketing & Communications at Nedbank Namibia.