It was all systems go for the Community and Youth Access Department

The Community and Youth Development department started the year on a positive note after receiving 24 students from across the SADC region for the Natural Resource Management, Terrestrial, NQF Level 5 course as well as 23 students from South Africa for the Resource Guardianship NQF level 2 course. The latter course being sponsored by the Department of Agriculture Rural Development and Land Reform.

In 2020, the Natural Resource Management, Terrestrial course replaced the Higher Certificate in Nature Conservation previously managed by the Higher Education and Training Natural Resource Management Department given changes to the education landscape. As such it now falls under the Community and Youth Development department. These student are sponsored through the College’s Sponsor-a-Student bursary campaign, where a number of students still require sponsorship.

In addition, the department is training 75 learners on the Resource Guardianship NQF Level 2 course sponsored by the National Skills Fund. The three groups of 25 started the year with work place experiential learning after completion of their contact sessions in December 2019. Two of the three groups, totalling 50 learners, were based in KZN at the Mayibuye Nature Reserve and are supported by the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation via the National Skills Fund. The third group was based at the College’s main campus and comprised 25 students.

Training progressed very well until mid-March and the department approached the month of March with the intention of completing the work place experiential learning by July 2020. These training programmes were all however unfortunately interrupted by the Covid-19 implications.

The Ministerial directive to pause all contact training as well as the work place experiential learning affected progress and training for all 122 active learners. This meant that employed students had to be sent back to their places of employment while the un-employed students were sent back to their homes.

Another blow was the pause in recruitment and enrolment of another 182 students. This included 47 students from North West province, 95 students from Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces and 25 students from the western side of the Kruger National Park under the authority of the National Skills Fund. Fortunately the 142 students from the provinces has already sat for the College Application Assessment. These students fall are under the Department of Agriculture Rural Development and Land Reform and are currently on the National Rural Service Corps Programme, enrolled for the year-long Resource Guardianship Programme. 

In addition, 15 school leavers were to be selected for this year’s Youth Access: Bridging Programme – Guiding Internship, which is pre-empted by the Conservation Foundational Learning Competency Certificate. The 15 students enrolled on the Bridging Course Programme will see the best eight students selected for the guiding component of the programme and subsequent internship.

Despite the fact that all 304 students to be trained under the Community and Youth Access department have been impacted by the prevailing Covid-19 virus and the subsequent lockdown imposed, the department is still hard at work. The aim being to ensure that all the training that has been put on hold will progress once the Covid-19 restrictions are eased, or as part of a blended learning approach in the interim.

As a result, the department is investigating possibilities of different e-learning platforms for most of its theory and formative activities. Currently, the department has students in all stages ranging from recruitment to work place experiential learning, which presents an additional challenge. However, the department anticipates rolling out a pilot e-learning programme within the next three months should the Covid-19 implications continue to hinder its efforts. Meanwhile all students are being contacted to establish their accessibility to internet, computer or smart phones. The prospective students will also be contacted during recruitment so that their readiness to e-learning is established well in advance. In addition to preparing the students on e-learning, the department is also taking all precautionary measures to prepare the College campus as per Covid-19 regulations so that returning students as well as their facilitators are protected against any possible infection.