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March 30, 2015

iSimangaliso rewards knowledge & African Travel Solutions

iSimangaliso rewards knowledge
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park continued its tradition of encouraging and educating young school learners living around the Park, through the latest of its biennial School Awards events held on 16 March 2015. Some 40 local schools (of around 600 in the Obonjeni school district within which the Park falls) participated in the first iSimangaliso School Quiz, where schools competed against each other in a quiz, battling it out during the knock-out stages until a single school remained.

Previous years have invited artworks, poems and creative dance all themed around conservation topics. The quiz focused on the topic of ‘Exploring marine and terrestrial world heritage‘– entirely appropriate for the Park which includes 220km (over 7%) of the country’s shoreline, as well as being part of South Africa’s first trans-frontier marine protected area and one of only 47 UNESCO marine world heritage sites, fondly known as ‘jewels of the ocean’.

Altogether the quiz hosted about 120 learners and educators, who were treated to a hippo and crocodile boat cruise on the Lake in line with the theme ‘Exploring marine and terrestrial world heritage’. For many learners and educators, this was the first time they experienced the boat trip.
iSimangaliso’s Manager of Development and Planning, Nerosha Govender, added that “the dissemination of iSimangaliso’s world heritage values is also a UNESCO requirement – it is important for young people to understand and care for the Park, to realise there is a bright future and to increase ownership by communities.”

Thobeka Sibiya knows all too well the benefits of environmental education. Having graduated with a degree in Geography and Environmental Management, supported by a bursary through iSimangaliso’s Higher Education Access Programme, she started working at the Authority in September 2013. Thobeka was tasked with organising the iSimangaliso School Awards Programme and said that “during this period I managed to interact with learners who were in the same position as I was a few years back; I shared my experiences with learners and managed to realise a vision aimed at uplifting the community while at the same time educating them about one of my dearest passions, iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site.”
Schools were chosen based on their geographical location to the park. Additionally, many of these schools have been involved in previous education and awareness programmes, namely the iSimangaliso Environmental Education programme and iSimangaliso School Awards Programme. It is iSimangaliso’s goal to eventually expose learners from all of the surrounding schools to the Park.
The target group was high school learners from grades 10 and 11, with two learners per school accompanied by one educator. Learners were chosen for their interest in tourism and/or environment. Community leaders Induna Phillip Mkhwanazi (Khula) and Induna Almon Sithole (Dukuduku) were also invited to the event to appreciate the efforts of the next generation.

iSimangaliso Tourism Information Officer Thandi Shabalala was the Quiz Master at the first iSimangaliso School Awards Quiz Competition, asking dozens of questions mainly focused on iSimangaliso but which also included general knowledge about South Africa at large. Questions were set by the iSimangaliso Research Department.
The competition was structured into eight group stages (five schools in each group stage) where all the schools competed against each other, followed by Semi finals (1): Eight schools competing against each other; Semi finals (2): Four schools competing against each other; Finals (third prize): Two schools competing against each other; Finals (first and second prize): Two schools heatedly competing against each other for the top spot, actively encouraged by learners from the other schools.

There could only be one winner, and it was the team from Ezinhlabeni High School that scooped the prize for 1st place, comprising victorious learners Thembilihle Tembe and Nkosiyazi Makwakwa (above left). Above right: Acting Park Operations Director Sizo Sibiya, local Induna Almon Sithole with Jabulani Ndimande- teacher representing the winning school Ezinhlabeni High School. Second prize went to Nothando Ngubane and Sizwe Tembe of Shengeza High School, followed by Mashalaza High School’s Nokwande Ngubane and Njabulo Mpanza in third position.
The winning schools received some wonderful prizes as follows:
1st place
School: Dell Computer and conservation themed books
Learners: Nokia Lumia cellphone, conservation themed books and fictional books for teenagers
2nd place
School: Colour Canon printer, fax, scanner, copier and conservation themed books
Learners: Stationery, conservation themed books and fictional books for teenagers
3rd place
School: Black and White Canon printer, fax, scanner, copier and conservation themed books
Learners: Stationery (Pencil case, colour pens and pencils, paper, scissors, glue, paper, etc)
What the schools had to say
Ezinhlabeni High School
Teacher – Mr Jabulani Ndimande: “What an amazing experience. The learners were very happy. To think we were skeptical at first to enter but the learners saw this opportunity to learn. The competition gave them a lot of information that they were not aware of. They actually wish to work at the Park.”
Learner – Ms Thembelihle Tembe (Grade 11): “We worked so hard and are happy to have won. We also panicked a lot but it paid off in the end. It is nice knowing so much information about the place that we live in. Thank you to our teachers for allowing us to attend and thank you to iSimangaliso Wetland Park for the opportunity.”
Shengeza High School
Teacher – Miss Nokuthula Mthethwa: “The learners were very happy. They were motivated a lot the whole day, especially in terms of environmental issues. It is difficult telling or teaching children about crocodile and hippos when they have not experienced boat trips and seen the animals for themselves. Today fulfilled many dreams. Even the school as a whole is motivated and I know that Tourism as a subject in the school will now be highly acknowledged.”
Learner – Mr Sizwe Tembe (Grade 11): “We did our best and thank you for the opportunity.”
Mashalaza High School
Teacher: Mr Thobekani Mtshali – “It was superb! The day was too good. Getting the boat cruise…I didn’t expect that. The boat trip…usually tourists have to pay… but today, we didn’t have to pay. The learners really enjoyed it.”
Learner – Ms Nokwanda Ngubane (Grade 10): “I was shaking – I wanted to answer all the questions correctly. I wish we could have been in the final round but am grateful we took third place. We have something to be proud of as a school and as individuals” (said through tears of happiness at winning third place).”

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