Biodiversity Skills Pilot Programme
Working as a service provider to the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD) of EThekwini (Durban) Municipality, the Umkhumbane Schools Project has undertaken a Biodiversity Skills Pilot Programme to work with a select group of learners from our five schools towards the goals of:
- laying a foundation in biodiversity knowledge and skills,
- increasing exposure to biodiversity-related careers, and
- preparing the learners for entry into biodiversity-related bachelors degree programmes
This innovative programme was formulated as part of Durban’s strategic approach to building urban resilience by closing gaps that exist between employment opportunities and the skills of potential candidates for employment. The current skills gap with regard to solid training in life sciences as a foundation for work in biodioversity-related fields is the product both of a brain drain of qualified candidates as well as an existing emphasis on generalist environmental skills as opposed to more specialized scientific education.
In Year 1 of the programme, during the 2017 school year, a group of 24 Grade 11 learners was selected as the inaugural Biodiversity Skills Group through an essay-writing and interview process. Enrollment in year two is 23 Matric learners, for a programme of extra tuition in life sciences, career exposure days, field excursions, and assistance with the university admissions. The goal of these efforts is to enable this group of learners to become eligible for and interested in bachelor’s level study and future careers in Biodiversity-related fields, thereby helping to narrow the Biodiversity skills gap.
In addition to providing extra tuition in Life Sciences on Saturdays throughout the two-year programme, this 2-year programme has provided the following learning opportunities to the Biodiversity Skill Group:
- 3-day/2-night field excursion to WESSA’s Twinstreams Environmental Education Centre
- 2 day/3-night field excursion to WESSA’s Umngeni Valley Nature Reserve
- day-trip field excursion to the Durban Botanic Garden
- day-trip field excursion to the Buffelsdraai Landfill Site and Education Centre
- academic field exposure day with the School of Life Sciences, UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus
- film screenings and discussions of Before the Flood, An Inconvenient Truth: the Sequel; and Your Inner Fish
Our work with this group has also included a substantive programme of guidance and assistance with university applications. Our learners have applied for Bachelor’s Degree study in fields such as Environmental Science, Life Sciences (Life and Earth Sciences Stream), Geological Sciences, Agricultural Science, Marine Biology, as well as National Diploma study in Nature Conservation. We are awaiting their admissions results, due to be announced in January of 2019 after publication of the 2018 National Senior Certificate exam results.