By Chris Kafoteka
The Covid-19 pandemic presented the Community and Youth Development Department with similar challenges that the whole world faced during the 2021 academic year. Borrowing an Alan Cohen saying that “you do not wait until conditions are perfect to begin; beginning makes the conditions perfect” thus became our mantra.
As such, the Department began 2021 with one of the College’s flagship programmes namely the Natural Resource Management, Terrestrial, Level 5 Occupational Certificate. Students were drawn from different local National Parks, Nature Reserves, Private Organisations as well as the different SADC States.
Wits Rural Facility, Umgano Forestry, Limpopo Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, African Parks, and SANParks were amongst those organisations that shared the Department’s dream and made sure their staff or sponsored individuals attended the Level 5 Programme at the College. The programme was in turn supported by different bursary donors including Tusk Trust, the Southern African Wildlife College Trust, Friends of African Wildlife, KfW Stiftung, Foundation Segré, and Investec.
Despite the revised restrictions in 2021, the Level 2 programmes in Resource Guardianship were able to supplement the Level 5 Programme. The Department also implemented a blended learning strategy in which online learning supplemented the contact sessions.
Not resting on their laurels, the Department went further and borrowed. Dr. Henry Link’s saying that “We generate fears while we sit. We overcome them by action.” This resulted in us approaching the South Africa’s Department of Agriculture Rural Development and Land Reform and the National Skills Fund, advising them of the plans that were in place at the College to implement different training interventions whilst adhering to the required Covid- 19 protocols. Thereafter several other SAWC stakeholders were approached and convinced that plans were in place for training interventions to continue at the College.
The Department uses the applied learning strategic objective and, in conjunction with local communities, managed to offer some offsite training interventions throughout the year until all its scheduled 2021 programmes were successfully implemented.
The Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, Friends of African Wildlife and Italtile and Ceramic Foundation Trust made sure the Department’s vision to inspire and educate the next generation of environmental leaders via the Youth Access Bridging Course was kept alive.
As we approach the end the of 2021 academic year, we concur with Michael Altshuler that the bad news is that time flies and the good news being, that you are the pilot. While we close 2021 we realized that we were the pilot and that all our planned programmes for the year were completed successfully despite the fact that we are still in the midst of the pandemic and having to adapt to the new norm. This has also allowed us to plan better for 2022, where the Department will run both the year-long Natural Resource Management programmes. This as the College plans to roll out the three-year Applied Natural Resource Management Diploma in 2023, which will ultimately replace the current Advanced Certificate Programme in Natural Resource Management. The Department is thus geared to manage both the Natural Resource Management, Terrestrial Level 5, Occupational Certificate and the Advanced Certificate in Trans-frontier Conservation Area Management, Level 6 Higher Education and Training Certificate in 2022. Twenty-four spaces have been reserved for the Advanced Certificate and 26 spaces for the Level 5 programme.