South Africa

South Africa Countryside (Photo Credit Abbie Cohen)

EE has continued to gain traction in South Africa since 1994, after the apartheid system ended, and the national curriculum standards included a requirement to implement K–12 EE. There are, however, still various barriers hindering South Africa’s EE potential. For example, many teachers still lack the training and resources needed to successfully integrate EE into their lessons. Nonetheless, there is  hope and opportunity for EE expansion, aided by both internal and external associations and organizations connecting various stakeholders and projects.

 National EE Legislation  

Environmental education gained notable traction in the early 1990s. The Environmental Education Policy Initiative (EEPI) was formed at this time to address the need for proactive lobbying for environmental education during a time of significant curriculum change and development. Read an academic journal article on the EEPI.

The importance of EE was recognised by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in 1993 when the Ministers of Environment established a regional EE programme (SADC REEP). Since it started operating in 1997, the REEP has been working to enable EE practitioners across southern Africa to strengthen EE processes for equitable and sustainable environmental management choices. This has been achieved through strengthened EE policy, networking, resource materials, training capacity, research, and evaluation. The SADC REEP has also partnered with other regional and national EE initiatives and aligned with regional EE and education for sustainable development (ESD) programs.

In southern Africa, EE and ESD have been strengthened by regional level networking through communities of practice such as the Environmental Education Association of southern Africa (EEASA).

EE in K-12 Education

The South African Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) advocates for the integration of Environmental Education (EE) in all grades (R–12) and subjects. CAPS is a policy document created by the Department of Basic Education that supplies detailed guidance for educators on what they should teach and how to perform assessments.

The Kids in Parks Programme, a partnership between the government and private sector, supplies disadvantaged youth learners with the opportunity to visit a national park and learn about natural and cultural resources. 

The Kudu Green School Initiative (KGSI) targets urban school children. Through this programme, schools establish an Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) committee of teachers, parents, and learners that works to provide ways to explore the relationships between nature and people in urban settings. 

The Energy Dialogues Programme, which is incorporated in the grade 11 geography curriculum, has teachers and learners work together to develop a school-community energy campaign that includes a platform for climate change dialogue. 

2020 Vision for Water, a programme run by the Department of Water Affairs in partnership with the Department of Education, aims to support schools with resources and promote innovation projects such as the South African Youth Water Prize into schools and communities.

Professional Development and Certification 

C.A.P.E. Conservation Education Programme (partnered with South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI): Environmental education is an integral part of South Africa’s National Curriculum Statements. Yet few teachers, teacher educators or government officials have a background in environmental education. The C.A.P.E was motivated by the need to strengthen our professional capacity for curriculum-based environmental education

Teachers of KGSI committees (see section EE in K–12 Education) are included in an accredited  professional development program that is focused on the development and implementation of EE.   

National Associations 

EEASA: The Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa is a voluntary membership based multi-sectoral and multi-organisational association of educators, researchers, policy makers, students and practitioners.

EE in the National Government 

The Department of Environmental Affairs cooperates with the Department of Education, South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) in supporting continuous review of environmental curriculum linked to sector demands. To promote environmental awareness and education, the department has prioritised a school based environmental education programme as well as a community based environmental awareness programme.

National EE Campaigns and Funding 

The Africa Environmental Education and Training Action Plan was initiated by the UNEP AMCEN Secretariat in partnership with the UNEP Environmental Education and Training Unit (EETU) following the 2012 Arusha Declaration 18. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Environmental Education Programme was a consulting body in the creation of the Action Plan.