The youth of Grahamstown are slowly becoming environmental activists as Rhodes University students teach them the fundamentals. Our reporter, Shannon Frost, has all the details about this exciting organisation.
Every Thursday afternoon, a group of patient Ntsika Secondary School students welcome back a small group of Rhodes University environmental activists to their classroom. The next two hours are filled with eager personalities teaching and learning about everything from tidal waves and African Emperor Caterpillars to the Hogsback forest. This is the work of the local student founded environmental organisation, WildREACH.
Aimed to help students between the ages of 15 and 18, WildREACH uses practical ways to develop and maintain the student’s interest in wild areas within Makana. Activity-filled weekends, day trips to local nature reserves and museum tours are where this organisation’s energy goes..WildREACH have consistently received a positive response from the learners at Ntsika and interest from other secondary schools in Grahamstown and have been described as “role models” by Ntsika’s headmistress, Madeleine Schoeman.
Founded in 2011 by a Rhodes student, WildREACH took off as a project under the umbrella of the South East African Climate Consortium Student Forum (SEACC SF), one of the most progressive student organisations in South Africa. The Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) and Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT) has continued to be vital in WildREACH’s structural and financial support.
WildREACH have already hosted seven successful excursions in 2015 for students in Ntaba Maria, Nombulelo High School and Ntiska Secondary School. These excursions gave G’Town’s young environmental activists the opportunity to participate in the Makana Green Fun Run, improve skills on insect collecting and learn different life forms that can be found in the intertidal zones. These exciting excursions also include meals, transport, accommodation, stationery packs and prizes for the students completely funded by WildREACH.
However, Chairman of WildREACH, Samantha Houghting, mentions that WildREACH does have some problems to tackle. “Unfortunately, a lot of Grahamstown is unaware of the project and what we do. Finding volunteers who are reliable…and a sustainable source of funding is one of the new challenges emerging,” Houghting explains.
But WildREACH has exciting future plans to expand their vision and grow the organisation. Houghting details their five year aims as a way to expand into more Grahamstown schools. “Our long term plan is to rent an office space and employ an administrative officer to work a few afternoons a week…and reinstating a Rhodes advisory committee to formalise the initiative and to ensure that WildREACH’s management is professional and effective.”
WildREACH is always looking for volunteers to help with driving buses, teaching on Thursday’s and organising new exciting trips for the students. As WildREACH continues to grow and make an impact in the education of environmental studies, Embizweni will follow their development.