For over 40 years the Delta Environmental Centre has been offering environmental education to students and teachers, reaching approximately 28 000 learners a year.
In 2013, together with the department of environmental affairs, the Delta Community Centre launched a three-year plan called the Youth Environmental Services programme in North West province.
Through this very successful programme, SETA-accredited (Sector Education and Training Authority) training is provided each year to 100 matriculated students who are then assisted in finding jobs in the formal sector. As an accredited training provider, Delta is able to empower these students by formally equipping them to qualify for gainful employment in the areas they live in.
The process was a departure from Delta’s previous work. Director Di Beeton says: “It was therefore a great learning curve. We built on past experience, but also had a number of challenges that we hadn’t encountered before. In our other programmes, we don’t have extended, individual time with the students. With this course, we’ve had 12 months of engagement and this has given us the opportunity to engage in a more meaningful way.”
Choosing the students is an integrated process: municipalities in North West are contacted to assist. Notices and advertisements are put up and students must apply; they are then screened and interviewed. The students must commit to a full 12-month programme and must have a matric qualification.
A team of veterans have been employed to guide them through the curriculum. The content is related to conservation, especially in the area. They’ve also embraced new ways of communicating with the students. “We’re using WhatsApp groups to stay in touch. If there are adverts about upcoming jobs or a meeting that needs to be attended, we are able to simply send a message.”
The students are also required to engage in meaningful community service. “Using what they’ve learnt, they can make food gardens, teach others sustainable waste production, plant indigenous trees or clear alien forests.”
Through this programme, Delta works to organise exit opportunities for graduates. Some graduates are placed in formal jobs, while others are assisted in finding study grants. From the 2013 class, six students decided they would like to study further and were able to get diplomas and financial assistance enabling them to enter university.
Other graduates have gone on to become green entrepreneurs or have tackled socioeconomic issues in their community using the principles of ecological sustainability.
In 2015, Delta Environmental Centre celebrates their 40th year. “That Norman Bloom had the foresight in the 1970s to open the centre was visionary. He created a solid platform for us to do new work and try new ideas. It’s truly a foundation for the next generation,” says Beeton.