More than 1,500 primary school children in villages around the Kruger National Park in South Africa are receiving education on nature and conservation with support from Tui.

The travel giant’s Care Foundation is backing an ‘Ecokidz” programme for 1,550 children from grades five, six and seven to help raise awareness of the importance of natural resources.

Nature conservation has been made an integral part of the school curriculum for children from disadvantaged areas around the national park.

Tui Care Foundation is working with the local organisation Sefapane Community Development Fund to inspire responsibility for the environment among the next generation.

In addition to school-based learning on nature and conservation, 400 of the children are selected to visit Kruger each year as part of the 20 two-day adventure camps run as part of the educational programme.

Despite living within a few miles of the park, these children`s families can rarely afford to visit it.

Now many of them are given the opportunity to spot giraffes, rhinos and wildebeest, while learning about Africa’s flora and fauna and the importance of preserving and respecting the natural environment for their community.

The programme is delivered through a network of local men and women who are trained to become ‘environmental monitors’, which means a paid job for them in an area where more than half of the young adults are unemployed.

Applicants need to have finished their high school, have some experience with teaching and an interest in environmental issues in order to become an Environmental Monitor with EcoKidz.

Tui Care Foundation board of trustees chairman Thomas Ellerbeck said: “An empowered youth is not only crucial to fight unemployment, but it also opens a path towards an ecologically responsible generation.

“To support future ambassadors for South Africa`s nature and wildlife is a great opportunity to help preserve the spectacular natural environment of this country.”

Joris Bertens from Sefapane Community Development Fund, said: “We are co-operating with nine schools in order to
create a ‘journey’ for a learner, taking him or her through several years of environmental education.

“Teachers are eager to know more about our programme and we have held presentations for them with high levels of attendance and response.”

Eric Mkansi, director of the Pondo primary school that is participating in the educational scheme, said: “Our kids are becoming more orientated on environmental issues; they realise it’s a worthy cause. Especially now, after the first group went on the excursion, they see the incentive of working hard and behaving well in class.”