Following the announcement of the 3-year partnership between Somkhanda Community Game Reserve and Bhejane Nature Training in June 2020, WILDLANDS, a programme of the WILDTRUST is excited to announce the first successful group of youth who have qualified as certified, FGASA (Field Guides Association of South Africa) Nature Guides.
As South Africa gears up to celebrate Youth month, it is encouraging to witness positive stories which put youth empowerment, upskilling and employment at the forefront. South Africa has some of the highest youth unemployment rates globally with an estimated 58% of youth currently unemployed. This can be attributed to several factors including low education rates, lack of experience and a variety of socio-economic factors.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented challenges, Bhejane Nature Training took on local community youth from the surrounding communities of Pongola, KwaLubisi and Dlakusa who were part of the Youth Employment Services (YES) 2020 group into an intensive training course which included Track and Sign Interpretation, Wilderness First Aid, Weather and Climate, Geology, Astronomy, Ecology, Plant and Animal Studies as well as Guiding Skills.
The YES programme was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March 2018 which was a collaboration between Nedbank and YES. The aim of the programme is to reduce youth unemployment levels across South Africa by providing one-year quality work-placements aimed at affording practical and meaningful work experiences for unemployed youth between the ages of 18 and 29.
“The process of getting the guides trained took just over a year due to the unfortunate interruption of COVID-19, however, we were very impressed with the commitment and the perseverance of the newly qualified guides. Even after being out of action for quite some time due to lockdown delays, it was clear that they developed a genuine interest in this field of study. This qualification means a lot to them and promises to open real employment opportunities for them in the conservation and Field Guide training sphere,” comments Christa Panos, Bhejane Nature Training College Principal.
The newly qualified guides, Nomvelo Ngamandla (aged 27), Celimpilo Gumede (aged 24), Thuli Nxumalo (aged 23), Lindiwe Nkosi (aged 27) and Thembokhule Majozi (aged 22) were awarded with their certificates at a low-key graduation event at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve this week. They received their NQF level 2 Apprentice Field Guide qualification and Wilderness First Aid certification.
Thembokuhle Majozi comments, “I would like to thank each and everyone who has had a hand in making this qualification possible. Thanks to Bhejane Nature Training, Somkhanda Game Reserve and WILDLANDS.”
Dr Roelie Kloppers, WILDTRUST CEO added, “We are incredibly proud of these newly qualified guides as they shine a beacon of hope for the future of wildlife conservation and the empowerment of youth as the future custodians of community led conservation. We are watching their development with a very keen interest and wish them all the best for the future.”
Bhejane Nature Training aims to provide students with a training and education environment that promotes internal growth and development beyond the youths’ career goals which is directly aligned with the WILDTRUST’s vision of a thriving and resilient world. This is also linking in with the YES4YOUTH objectives of giving youth meaningful work experience which adequately prepares them for the real working world. The WILDTRUST team is grateful to Nedbank for making this possible.
Bhejane Nature Training and Somkhanda wish these youth well in their conservation careers ahead.