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Eco Schools: A Sustainable Approach to Education in South Africa

In today’s world, where environmental issues are becoming increasingly critical, Eco Schools instill a sense of environmental responsibility in our future generations. Eco Schools, a global initiative, aims to do just that by promoting sustainable practices and environmental education in schools. This article will delve into the concept of Eco Schools, with a particular focus on the work done by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) in driving this initiative in South Africa.

What are Eco Schools?

Eco Schools is an international program that encourages schools to adopt sustainable practices and integrate environmental education into their curriculum. The program provides a framework for schools to address environmental issues and empowers students to take an active role in creating positive change within their school and community.

The Eco Schools program follows a seven-step process, which includes forming an Eco Committee, conducting an environmental review, developing an action plan, monitoring and evaluating progress, and involving the wider community. By following this process, schools can work towards achieving the prestigious Green Flag status, which signifies excellence in environmental education and sustainable practices.

WESSA’s Role in Eco Schools

In South Africa, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) has been at the forefront of driving the Eco Schools initiative. WESSA is a non-governmental organization that aims to promote environmental conservation and sustainable development in South Africa. Through their Eco Schools program, WESSA has been instrumental in transforming schools into environmentally conscious institutions.

WESSA provides support and resources to schools participating in the Eco Schools program. They offer training workshops for teachers, assist schools in conducting environmental audits, and provide guidance in developing action plans. WESSA also facilitates networking and knowledge-sharing among participating schools, fostering a sense of community and collaboration.

Benefits of Eco Schools

The Eco Schools initiative offers numerous benefits for schools, students, and the wider community. Firstly, it provides a platform for students to develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and take action to address them. By actively participating in the program, students learn valuable skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork.

Furthermore, Eco Schools promote a culture of sustainability within schools. Through initiatives such as waste reduction, energy conservation, and water management, schools can significantly reduce their environmental footprint. These sustainable practices not only benefit the environment but also lead to cost savings for schools.

Eco Schools also have a positive impact on the wider community. By involving parents, local businesses, and community organizations, schools can create a ripple effect, spreading awareness and inspiring sustainable practices beyond the school gates. This community involvement fosters a sense of shared responsibility and collaboration in addressing environmental challenges.

Success Stories in South Africa

The Eco Schools initiative has achieved remarkable success in South Africa, thanks to the efforts of WESSA and participating schools. One such success story is that of the Durban Girls’ College, which achieved Green Flag status in 2019. Through various initiatives, including recycling programs, water conservation projects, and environmental awareness campaigns, the school has become a shining example of sustainable practices.

Another notable success story is the Elkanah House Senior Primary in Cape Town. The school’s Eco Committee has been actively involved in tree planting initiatives, waste management programs, and energy-saving campaigns. Their efforts have not only resulted in significant environmental improvements but have also fostered a sense of pride and ownership among the students.

Eco Schools, driven by organizations like WESSA, are playing a crucial role in promoting sustainable practices and environmental education in South Africa. By empowering students and schools to take action, the Eco Schools initiative is shaping the future generation into environmentally responsible citizens. The success stories of schools achieving Green Flag status serve as inspiration for other institutions to join the movement and contribute towards a greener and more sustainable South Africa.

Eco Schools: A Sustainable Approach to Education in South Africa

Eco Schools, an internationally recognized program, has been making waves in South Africa as a leading initiative to promote environmental awareness and sustainability among students. Spearheaded by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), Eco Schools has been instrumental in transforming the educational landscape by integrating sustainable practices into school curriculums. This article delves into the key aspects of Eco Schools and highlights its impact on South African students, aiming to shed light on the importance of this program in fostering a greener future.

Eco Schools and WESSA

Eco Schools, a global program established by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), aims to empower students to take an active role in environmental conservation. In South Africa, the program is implemented by WESSA, a non-governmental organization that has been at the forefront of environmental education and conservation for over 90 years. WESSA’s collaboration with schools across the country has resulted in the successful implementation of Eco Schools in various regions.

The Core Principles of WESSA Eco Schools

Eco Schools operate on six core principles that guide its implementation within educational institutions. These principles include:

1. Environmental Awareness: Eco Schools strive to create a sense of environmental consciousness among students, enabling them to understand the importance of sustainable practices and their impact on the planet.

2. Biodiversity: The program emphasizes the preservation and conservation of biodiversity, encouraging students to explore and appreciate the rich natural heritage of South Africa.

3. Sustainable Development: Eco Schools promote sustainable development by integrating environmental, social, and economic aspects into school activities, ensuring a holistic approach towards sustainability.

4. Litter and Waste Management: Students are encouraged to actively participate in waste management initiatives, promoting recycling, reducing waste, and raising awareness about the detrimental effects of litter.

5. Energy Efficiency: Eco Schools emphasize the importance of energy conservation and renewable energy sources, encouraging schools to implement energy-saving measures and educate students about sustainable energy practices.

6. Water Conservation: South Africa’s water scarcity issues make water conservation a vital aspect of Eco Schools. Students are educated about responsible water usage and encouraged to implement water-saving measures within their schools and communities.

The Impact of Eco Schools in South Africa

Eco Schools has had a profound impact on South African students, shaping their understanding of environmental issues and equipping them with the necessary skills to become environmentally responsible citizens. By integrating sustainability into the curriculum, Eco Schools has transformed education into a powerful tool for change.

One notable impact of Eco Schools is the increased awareness and understanding of environmental issues among students. Through hands-on activities, field trips, and practical projects, students are exposed to real-world environmental challenges and are encouraged to find innovative solutions. This approach not only enhances their knowledge but also instills a sense of responsibility towards the environment.

Moreover, Eco Schools have proven to be a catalyst for positive change within communities. Students actively engage with local communities, spreading awareness about environmental issues and implementing sustainable practices beyond the school premises. This ripple effect has led to wider adoption of sustainable practices, creating a more eco-conscious society.

Furthermore, the Eco Schools program has been successful in fostering a sense of ownership and pride among students. By involving students in decision-making processes and allowing them to take the lead in environmental initiatives, Eco Schools empowers them to become agents of change. This sense of ownership motivates students to actively participate in environmental conservation, both within and outside their school environment.


Eco Schools, spearheaded by WESSA, has revolutionized the education system in South Africa by infusing sustainability into the curriculum. By focusing on environmental awareness, biodiversity, sustainable development, waste management, energy efficiency, and water conservation, Eco Schools equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle pressing environmental challenges. With its profound impact on students and communities, Eco Schools is paving the way for a greener and more sustainable future in South Africa.

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