The Award ceremony took place on Tuesday 12 February 2013 at the Green House.
There was a good turnout of about 100 educators, learners and guests. The function was opened and the guests welcomed by Dr. Pat Miller, WCC Board member. In her short speech, she apologised on behalf of the older generation to the younger generation present for not having done a better job of protecting the environment and for the need to pass on so many environmental challenges for them to find answers to in the future.
Helena Atkinson, WESSA’s Western Cape Eco-Schools coordinator, gave an overview of the Eco-Schools Programme, which now operates in 51 different countries worldwide. The movement is not yet strong in other parts of Africa and this presents us with a challenge to help to promote the programme to our north.
Mayor Nicolette Botha-Guthrie spoke about the importance of looking after the environment in the Overstrand and encouraged the learners to continue with their excellent start to becoming committed custodians of this precious gift. She referred to the strong benefit derived by the municipality and community from the work of the Eco-schools programme and the WCC newsletters and other materials, which are used by the municipality to support its application for Blue Flag Beach status and for the Greenest Town Award.
Sheraine van Wyk announced several competitions for schools with environmental themes and encouraged them to enter. She reported on the on-going shark egg case survey project in which schools are involved; there are now collections points along most of the Whale Coast. She also announced a new project under the auspices of the University of Stellenbosch. This entails a survey of the distribution of different ant species in our area which will be entered into a comprehensive data base to ascertain the extent of invasion by Argentinian ants.
The final speaker was John Kieser, representing the Plastics Federation, who talked about the statistics obtained from the International Coastal Clean-up last year. The usual litter culprits were found, but a troubling trend is the widespread presence of plastic polymer beads on our sandy shores. These beads are the basic starting materials for the manufacture of plastic products and they are escaping from factories and during transport, are washed into the sea and land up on the beaches. Plastics are, sadly, not inert as they are mixed with chemicals during manufacture and these toxic chemicals leach out into the sea. The trash we find in the sea is a sad reflection of what we waste on land.
Achievement awards were handed out to 30 schools that had participated in the Eco-Schools programme during 2012. Small grants were awarded to 20 schools for which successful project funding applications had been made by the WCC through WESSA to the HSBC. These schools were encouraged to identify specific expenditure items for their projects so that the WCC can coordinate the distribution of the funds. Special awards for their exceptional individual participation were given to Ester Pitzer, Zani Muller and Deseree Davids. A total of 10 schools have now achieved International status.
The first cut of the WCC’s rhino video was shown, which features learners from schools that had raised funds for rhino conservation and appeals to other children from Eco-Schools in Asian countries to engage with them and to make a difference in preventing rhino poaching. The video, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), will be distributed throughout the world through the Eco-Schools network.
Awareness projects about the conservation of our local endangered flora and fauna such as African Penguins, Cape Leopard, abalone and fynbos species, will follow as part of the biodiversity theme within the NLDTF Sustainability Awareness Project.
WCC also took the opportunity to introduce the exhibits for “Waste not, Save a Lot”, the theme of our sustainability awareness campaign or 2013. With the help of some of our partners in this campaign, Overstrand Municipality, the Recycle Swop Shop, Working for the Coast, Modern Energy, to name a few, we put on a pretty marvellous show. And to conclude the proceedings, Estelle Schuurman’s soup went down a treat.