‘Above all, we [as educators] are much neeeded role models for these children and teenagers. On a personal level it’s about making them believe that they can achieve, starting with them believing in themselves; that they can rise from a hard and often dicsouraging childhood. Many of us have done just that.
On a professional level, we show them that it is exciting, rewarding and cool to be working for nature conservation. We point to the clean water that runs through Lapalala and say to them ‘ most of you have not seen clean water like this, because most of South Africa’s water is polluted. And we don’t have enough of it. It is up to you guys to be the game changers. And their eyes shine, I tell you!’
Mashudu Makhokha, LWS Director
Redrhino exists to support the Lapalala Wilderness School (LWS) in the Waterberg, South Africa.
The profits generated from the sale of Redrhino scarves are donated in their entirety to the continued running of the school, and with a particular focus on the school’s Youth Development Programme which identifies and educates young learners from disadvantaged rural areas who show potential and passion to become the next conservation leaders.
What happens at the Lapalala Wilderness School?
The LWS is an outdoor environmental education centre, a highly professional institution run by a small and dedicated team of educators from the region, and is renowned for its level of excellence, innovative teaching and in its ability to reach out to South Africa’s rural communities.
Situated in the vast and unspoilt 36,000 hectare Lapalala Reserve, LWS was established in 1985 by Clive Walker and Dale Parker, and is today chaired by Dr John Hanks and directed by Mashudu Makhokha.
Clean water and fertile soil are fundamental to moving beyond poverty, and because these life-supporting services require local leadership, Redrhino directly supports the recently introduced Youth Development Programme.
Headed by Lizzy Litshani, the educators at the LWS are always on the lookout for learners who show a particular interest and acumen for conservation. Selected teenagers frequently gather at Lapalala to nurture this potential.
As well as environmental teachings, the nurturing process also involves life skills and individual mentoring. The endpoint of the process will depend on attitudes of the individuals and the available careeer opportunities. For example, some will become excellent field guides, or join a conservation department as a game gurad or ranger when leaving secondary school. Others will be nurtured right through to university to take up environmental posts and become leaders in their field.
This is work which takes the long view; it is intensive and costly - and Redrhino believes in its fundamental value for a sustainable future.
Lizzy grew up in a small village north of Lapalala, and came to LWS with her community school when she was in her mid teens. Her week at the school was an eyeopener, and following on from the stay Lizzy spoke often to her mother of how she wanted to work in the field of conservation. When Lizzy finished secondary school, not sure of how to further her education, her mother saw an advertisement for a funded Environmental Learnership Programme for one year at Lapalala Wilderness School. Lizzy applied, together with four busloads of applicants, and after being interviewed at Lapalala she was selected as one of six for the Learnership. One year later, Lizzy was selected as one of three to go on to become permanent staff. Through the career developent opportunities at LWS, Lizzy has furthered her education and is today the LWS Outreach Co-ordinator.
The main focus at LWS is accomodating and educating community schools that live within a 100 km radius of the Lapalala reserve. These are mostly disadvantaged, under-resourced government schools, and funded by LWS, they come for a week and are provided with three good meals a day and are exposed to relevant, innovative and stimulating educational programmes. In 2014, 31 such schools involving 3,102 community children, teenagers and their teachers stayed at LWS.
LWS also accepts requests from fee-paying youth organisations and private schools, resulting in LWS being fully booked with waiting lists for most of the year.
In addition, LWS
- is the leading Eco-School node in South Africa, improving environmental management at 41 schools under the enthusiastic and dedicated guidance of the Co-ordinator Lucas Ngobeni;
- holds teacher training workhops to influence and inspire environmental education in community schools. In 2014, 214 teachers came to Lapalala to attend such workshops.
LWS provides full-time employment to 10 educators and administrators, and 9 hospitality staff.
‘Conservation and poverty alleviation are inextricably linked. Green campaign of passion and idealism alone will not halt the loss of Africa’s biodiversity, for they have no relevance to those who live in poverty.’
Dr. John Hanks, Chairman of the LWS Board