CELEBRATING WORLD RHINO DAY

Ndifelani Mulaudzi, Trade Officer, EWT Wildlife in Trade Programme

NdifelaniM@ewt.org.za

The EWT and the Lapalala Wilderness School celebrated World Rhino Day earlier this year with Grade 10 learners from 23 high schools, community and NGOs, from the Waterberg region. To date, 104 Grade 10 learners have participated in debates on issues around rhino poaching. This special day provides the opportunity for learners to develop ideas and solutions to address the rhino poaching crisis in South Africa.

For the past four years, we have held our school competition with learners from the different schools in our host regions. In 2015, we held the competition in Mpumalanga (at the Timbavati) where 20 schools participated. Starting in 2016, we moved the competition to Limpopo (Waterberg Area), where over 23 schools have participated. The competition has since grown to become a community event in the Waterberg area.

While this is a one-day event, the preparation and follow-up extend far beyond the day when learners deliver what they have prepared.

This year’s competition attracted 40 children from 23 schools. Each learner had between three to five minutes to speak on the topic What are the social, political and economic impacts of rhino poaching? Develop an argument and present possible solutions to the impact and challenges.

Considering the age of the competitors, the standard was remarkably high. It was most encouraging to hear the passion and enthusiasm of the speakers for a what is a complex subject. Presentations embraced issues of community involvement, the economic importance of tourism and other values of rhinos, law enforcement (and the efficacy of sentences for poaching), biodiversity conservation, and the general lack of a political commitment to addressing rhino poaching.

While the contest offers valuable prizes in the form of laptops (complete with software and virus protection) for the winning speakers, the real prize is the engagement around these critical conservation topics. The participants go on to become ambassadors for rhinos in their local communities, speaking out against poaching, and acting as eyes and ears on the ground. The contest has a significant impact on the participants as it encourages a perception within local communities that biodiversity can deliver tangible socio-economic benefits. Through this competition, communities see the social upliftment and empowering of the younger generation to attain skills of critical thinking and being involved in solving real issues, including rhino poaching.

The prizes are very helpful to the learners, as they are then equipped with a valuable resource that aids directly with their studies. For example, some, learners have used their laptops for a candidate research project, which is part of the CAPS curriculum to teach the art of research at an early age. The learner who won the competition last year was very grateful to receive the laptop, which we observed on a subsequent school visit. There, we found the learner using the prize to do a project and research for various assignments. She has also used technology that she would have never had at her disposal prior to university. Now, when she goes off to university, she will have a head start in understanding how to use computers to further her education.

The names of the top contestants and the prizes they received are as follows:

  1. Mmabatho Nkae Mothoa (Ramogabudi Secondary School, Maroteng Village): Laptop, printer, mouse and laptop bag.
  2. Lebogang Dikgashu (Ebenezer Secondary School, Mahwelereng Township): Laptop, mouse and laptop bag.
  3. Koketso Augustine Mochoeneng (Ramogabudi Secondary School, Maroteng Village): Camera, 16-GB memory card and printer.
  4. Isabel Mohumutsi (EDL Rampolo Secondary, Mahwelereng Township): R3,000 voucher for study aid material.
  5. Tshepang Chauke (EDL Rampolo Secondary, Mahwelereng Township): R3,000 voucher for school uniforms.
  6. Ted Marothi (Sekoba Secondary School, Mapela Hans Gamasenya Village): R3,000 voucher for school uniforms.
  7. Marry Nkwana (Nkgoru Secondary School, Nkgoru Village): R2,500 voucher for study aid material.

Thank you to Save the Waterberg Rhino, MyPlantMyRhino Fund, Waterberg Nature Conservancy, Tintswalo Game Lodge, Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, and Waterberg Waves FM for making this competition possible.