Having been managed by Children in the Wilderness (CITW) South Africa over the last few years, the decision was recently undertaken to pass the management of the Maramani schools in the Beitbridge region back to CITW Zambezi. We packed up our trusty Ford Ranger with all the new Eco-Club trunk supplies, and headed out to reconnect with the five schools in this region.
We set off early on the Monday morning, and after full day’s drive, arrived at Nottingham Estates – Kuduland, which would be our home for the next few days. We were in awe of the striking difference in terrain and foliage from our hometown, with towering baobabs and strikingly beautiful hillsides and stone outcrops. We could also start to the see the severe effects of the drought facing the region this year, with water sources few and far between and even the great Limpopo river dried up to barely a trickle in most places. In spite of this, however, we were greeted with kind and smiling faces wherever we went.
We started off our visits with Nottingham Primary School, situated on the Nottingham Estate, where the Eco-Mentor and school head welcomed us with open arms and eager anticipation to receive and start the new curriculum. We then continued on for another 50 kilometres to Shashi Primary and were given a tour of the school, including their beautiful eco-garden and rabbit hutch. The following morning we made an early start to ensure that we would make it to the further-reaching schools. These included Shashi Secondary, Limpopo Primary, and Jalukange Primary. One of the Eco-Mentors offered to help us with some simple phrases and translations in Venda (the primary language of the area) so that we can better connect with those we work with. We are also looking to help with some teaching aids in Venda that will help the students with their English and overall understanding of our Eco-Club lessons.
All of the schools were delighted with their new trunks, stocked with all the materials necessary for the lessons outlined in their new curricula. We also discussed potential projects and the exciting new tree planting initiative that we are preparing for release this coming Spring. The mentors and school heads alike continually expressed their gratitude and enthusiasm to be a part of the programme. Several of the schools have been working on proposals to set up income generating groups among the teachers and parents, such as broilers, layers, and road runners. We went through these with each school to see how and where we could help to ensure that the projects are established and are able to be self-run and sustainable.
On our way back from the schools, we called in to some of the local families in the area that have contributed and donated to the Tour de Tuli cycle challenge. We popped into the packing shed of the Nottingham Estate citrus farm, and were amazed by the production lines of sorting and packing the oranges. We were fortunate to be invited to watch the elephant feeding, whereby the wastage-grade oranges (around six tonnes) from the day’s harvest are dropped off for the elephants in the area to enjoy. Watching hundreds of elephants, baboons, and the odd eland descend and enjoy the fruit was a wonderful way to end a most rewarding trip.
Overall, our time in Maramani was hugely successful, and the chance to finally meet the school heads and Eco-Mentors face to face has enabled us to establish relationships that we will continue to build over the coming months. This, together with consistent communication with the Eco-Mentors will help us work collaboratively to benefit all those involved, emphasising the importance of caring for and conserving the environment in which they live.