Eco-Mentor Training in Bobirwa, Botswana

Thanks to the extraordinary funds raised by the annual Nedbank Tour de Tuli mountain bike event, which takes place in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA), Children in the Wilderness (CITW) is able to run our life-changing programme in villages in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe surrounding the GMTFCA.

In Botswana, we host Eco-Clubs in various villages in the Bobirwa District alongside the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Tanya McKenzie, our CITW Programme Coordinator for the Bobirwa area, with the assistance of Isabel Wolf-Gillespie and two community members, Calvenia Makgosa and Kamo Moilwe, implement our programme in the region. We have been working with Mathathane, Motlhabaneng and Lentswe-Le-Moriti Primary Schools for the past six years. Three schools have been added to the CITW Bobirwa programme – Gobojango, Mabolwe and Semolale Primary Schools, known as the Masego Cluster. These schools have been included in the programme because they are on the boundary of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve and the community land to the east of the villages, lends itself to wildlife tourism for travellers who prefer to camp and self-cater. The vision is to have this area included in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area, thereby increasing wilderness areas in Botswana. Children participating on our annual camps in Limpopo Valley and Tri-Nations Camps are selected from these schools.

At the beginning of July, Lisa Witherden (CITW Environmental Education Resource Developer, also called ‘Lisa the Teacher’) conducted Eco-Mentor Training with teachers and community members from the three new communities with which we’ve partnered. CITW held the two days of training in the Semolale Community Hall, where we had 25 participants join the training. Three teachers from each school, the vice-school head from Semolale Primary, Semolale Clinic nurses, Botswana Policewomen, interested community members, village elders and the chief of Semolale, made up the enthusiastic bunch of participants.

Our passionate and spirited Eco-Club Teacher from Semolale Primary School, Bamba Bagwasi, opened the training for us, with the participants singing traditional songs with effortless harmonies and much jubilation. Day one of training focused on the CITW programme, learning about the ins and outs of the programme structure, what it means to be a mentor and role model to our children, and how we teach our curriculum. A few lessons from our Eco-Club Resource Book 1, including a practical lesson on respect and how to build a Tippy Tap, and CITW energisers made up the first day of training.

The second day of training focused on environmental lessons, looking at food chains, the web of life, and climate change. Each of these lessons follows a specific structure, starting with an energizer, followed by theory on the topic, a practical component where theory is applied. Finally, we end off with a debrief discussion, summarizing the learnings and discussing possible practical ideas which could be implemented in schools, homes and communities to curb or make a positive change to the environmental issue discussed.

For example, our Tippy Tap lesson talks about the importance of good hygiene and saving water, looking at theory around this. We then build a Tippy Tap, and finally discuss the practicality of participants setting these up in their community. Everyone was eager to make their own Tippy Taps in their schools, outside community halls and churches, and in their homes. They were excited about the fact that Tippy Taps require very little effort and expense, but could make a massive difference in these communities where running water is not easily accessible. The engineers among the group, Mr Molelekwa and Mr Johnson, were keen to investigate these further, making adjustments that would make their Tippy Taps even more functional and practical.

The participants were absolute stars, asking practical questions, and getting completely involved in the learnings. Lisa the Teacher was kept on her toes, answering pressing questions from participants, and having to keep up with their incredible energy – wow! What an inspiring bunch of Mentors.

We ended off the training by awarding our participants with certificates, and handing out our beautiful Eco-Stars magazines, which encapsulates everything that CITW is about. We hope to conduct more training sessions in the Region in the next six months, touching more community members, and deepening our Eco-Club teacher’s knowledge on our lesson plans.

“Everything [we learnt] was useful since we were taught about people and the environment we are in” – Kelebonya Mamalelala, Teacher at Mabolwe Primary School

“I have learnt useful things in this workshop. I am now aware that everything in the environment exists for a purpose” – Japhet Johnson, Gobojango Primary School Teacher