Pupils play ball to help SA wildlife

Shaanaaz de Jager

CONSERVATION is scoring in a big way through a soccer-based education programme for Grade 5 pupils, whose neighbours are the big five nature and game reserves in the Eastern Cape.

Girls and boys from 13 schools in and around Grahamstown are being taught to “stalk like a leopard, change direction quickly like a rhino or run like a cheetah,” says conservationist and educationist, Lesley McNutt, who founded Coaching for Conservation in Botswana 10 years ago with husband, Dr JW (Tico) McNutt.

The eight-week pilot programme brought to South Africa and which started on October 7, is presented by qualified teachers and coaches.

The programme, aims to help the children establish a connection to the wild animals by having fun on the soccer field.

The pupils would have received a total of 20 hours of coaching and learning by the time the programme is completed.

Coaching for Conservation [C4C] is hosted by St Andrew’s College and DSG in Grahamstown for schools in the area and at the new Sidbury sports club between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth for rural schools.

Investec Rhino Lifeline is working in partnership with Coaching for Conservation.

Investec Asset Management has supported the highly successful programme in northern Botswana for the past four years.

McNutt said: “The Eastern Cape is the perfect place to introduce the programme because it is one of the few places in the country where school children are in almost daily contact with wild animals.

They either see the animals through the fences when travelling to school and back, or have family members working on the reserves. The local economy is largely driven by wildlife conservation.”

Investec Rhino Lifeline’s Dr William Fowlds and McNutt have created a special rhino edition of the Coaching for Conservation curriculum. Fowlds has introduced field excursions, where pupils are taken on game drives through the Amakala Game Reserve to experience the animals in action on their own “sports fields”.

McNutt said: “C4C aims to build confident healthy youth who care about themselves, their future, and the environment they are growing up in. Our motto reflects these core values: Respect Yourself, Respect Each Other, and Respect your Environment.”

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