Disadvantaged Children Getting Close to Nature

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By Lesley-Anne van Wyk WINDHOEK Rarely do you hear of spiders, caterpillars and scorpions having something to do with giving disadvantaged Namibian youth opportunities to improve their future. But the expeditions offered by non-profit EduVentures reveal a world abundant with crawling possibilities. Their programmes usually run over 10 to 12 days and have included excursions to the Brandberg, Kuiseb River, Namib Desert and Fish River Canyon. The latest offer from this initiative of the National Museum of Namibia was at a closing session held on Friday, June 16, at the Habitat Research and Development Centre in Katutura after the more recent trip to the Baynes Mountains in the far north-east of Namibia. The thirteen students, aged 15 to 18, from A. Shipena High School in Windhoek, Omuhonga Mobile School in Kaokoland and DHPS, described their findings and experiences after an eleven-day excursion into the mountain plateaus of the originally hunter-gatherer Tjimba people. Participants in the various expeditions can look forward to collecting specimens of flora and fauna to contribute to the national collections and data of specialists. The nine biologists, scientists and teachers that accompanied the adventurers are indispensable to the learning process. They can also expect to add to the scientific knowledge of the country as well as the understanding of its natural and cultural heritage. The mixture of students from both the local area – in this case the three from the mobile school – and those from Windhoek add colour and a wealth of personal insight to the groups’ experiences. By hiking into remote areas of Namibia, learners will be taught different methods of collecting specimens, the value of biodiversity as well as to appreciate all creatures with respect and not fear. These lessons make it possible for learners to be proud of the discovery of a new specimen of scorpion, the size of a human hand and that the excursions have contributed to Namibian wildlife research. The activities are designed to be both physically and mentally challenging while all the while they are fun, adventurous, and, above all, educational. Skills, such as how to read a Global Positioning Service device, a map and the environment are all imparted to the youngsters. Well-known facts among the group of the latest EduVentures expedition included which hydrous roots are suitable to quench one’s thirst and which plants serve as a remedy for diarrhoea, flu and other aches and pains. Appreciating the natural environment is taken a step further by opening the eyes of the participants to the need to be accountable for their actions in a range of fields, from erosion control, water and energy usage, littering and proper conduct when dealing with other cultures. After spending time with the Tjimba in their villages and camping sites, the programme participants learnt that the Tjimba believe the water might dry up from a well if one was to draw water from it with a bottle instead of a cup. It is from respecting the beliefs and values of the oldest inhabitants of Namibian land that our country can expect to develop. over and beyond the tribal stage. The friendships that have grown between the learners will benefit them in future. In addition to this, the effects of EduVentures include a marked interest in science subjects, increased motivation at school and personal development. So far EduVentures has organized seven expeditions with a total of 75 learners and contributed a massive 7586 specimens to national collections. These specimens include 2822 insects, 1132 spiders and scorpions, 21 reptiles, 15 amphibians and 71 plants. It has plans for one more expedition this year but needs sponsors as well as teachers and specialists to accompany the school children.