Youth waving the environmental flag

Sunday, April 7, 2019

About 35 young graduates will provide additional capacity to the country’s environmental and tourism sector.

The youth – 18 women and 17 men from KwaZulu-Natal - received certification in Environmental, Education, Training and Development, Practices - Sector Education and Training Authority (EETDP – SETA), under the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), which carries an NQF level 5 accreditation.

They were part of the Blue Flag Training Programme that promotes sustainable livelihoods by capacitating youth with relevant skills for employment in the environmental and tourism sector.

Implemented by the Wildlife, Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), the programme aims to improve tourism facilities and services offered at 46 Blue Flag beaches across the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape as well as 25 pilot sites.

The programme saw the youth stewards conducting outdoor environmental education classrooms for previously disadvantaged schools thereby fostering environmental education and awareness at a grassroots level within their local communities.

They also helped promote and market Blue Flag beaches to visitors, boosting coastal tourism and the oceans and marine economy in the context of Operation Phakisa. 

Tourism Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe, who officiated the youth’s graduation ceremony on Friday, emphasised the importance of utilising the skills attained as a tool to not only seek employment but also create entrepreneurial opportunities that will further create jobs and help the government to curb the unemployment rate that the country is currently facing.

“Our government has prioritised skills development as one way to bridge the gap between experience and qualification, as a way to enable our youth to be exposed to the corporate environment, with the hope to have a skilled workforce,” said Thabethe.

WESSA Director for Education and Youth Nontobeko Sibisi said the project has assisted in increasing Blue Flag beaches which have led to cleaner and safer coastal ecosystems for tourists visiting the beaches and communities living adjacent to the beaches.

“The value of the Blue Flag project is not just to environmental management and education, but also to economic development and job creation of youth in the conservation and tourism.

“The Blue Flag beach stewards improve the services at beaches by providing environmental awareness and actively engaging with visitors thus promoting sustainable tourism along South Africa’s coastline”, explained the,” explained Sibisi.

Former learner of the programme and current Junior Environmental Education Officer at the WESSA Umngeni Valley Education Centre Yethu Mthembu expressed gratitude to both the Department of Tourism and WESSA for the opportunity that led her to be permanently employed.

“I have found something that gives me purpose and passion. I am now looking for ways to improve myself in this field,” said Mthembu. -