The Plastic Changemakers programme is going to shift how the youth view the environmental impacts of plastic pollution.
South Africa (24 November 2023) – The Plastic Changemakers programme was recently launched in Cape Town by the Breteau Foundation. The programme aims to educate primary school children on the environmental impacts of plastic pollution.
Mona Ewees Mkumatela, regional development manager for the Breteau Foundation in South Africa, says the programme has already seen significant take-up from education practitioners, community organisations and NPOs.
“Since we officially launched the programme in October we have had extremely positive feedback from our partners across sectors,” she says. “This is very encouraging for us. We rely heavily on others to help us in our quest to reach one million children across the world and turn them into ambassadors for change in the plastics pollution space.”
Bruce Probyn, Chairman of the Western Cape Education Council, says engaging today’s learners requires a shift away from traditional teaching methods.
“We need to think differently about the way we interest and excite pupils,” he says. “The days of ‘chalk and talk’ are fading. They’re being replaced by a need for innovative, engaging approaches.”
Probyn’s long-term vision for the programme is optimistic.
“I envision that if the Plastic Changemakers programme becomes deeply embedded over time, it could lead to litter-free schools, which, in turn, would influence the surrounding communities.”
Probyn highlights the importance of a clear plan, well-thought-out steps, and consistent support.
“We collaborate with foundation phase colleagues who are actively engaged in approximately 18 schools, where multidisciplinary teaching is being implemented,” he says. “In this context, the Plastic Changemakers programme has a unique and valuable role to fulfil.”
The programme has also raised interest among local community organisations, including the Bonteheuwel Training Skills Squad (BTS). Zaironesa Karriem, the driving force behind BTS, says, “It’s not just about training and life skills; it’s about cultivating a sense of exploration, adventure, and fun.”
BTS serves three high schools and 14 primary schools in Bonteheuwel, and aims to engage all these institutions in the initiative.
“Our motivation is rooted in the desire to reshape the perspectives of young individuals. We aim to provide our learners with a practical understanding of how what is often perceived as waste and pollution can, in fact, hold the potential for creating sustainable opportunities,” says Karriem. “By exposing learners to initiatives like the Plastic Changemakers programme, BTS aims to instil seeds of change, nurturing values that the children can carry with them into the world as responsible ambassadors.”
Karriem says the programme engages children in a relatable and tactile way.
“It’s about bridging the gap between classroom theory and real-world practice, ensuring that every child’s inherent creativity finds expression. It’s also about building confidence and nurturing skills that, with ongoing support, will evolve into positive action.”
Jocelyn Anderson, Sustainable Schools Programme Manager at environmental education organisation, Nature Connect, says the Plastic Changemakers programme is the perfect addition to Nature Connect’s online library of quality, curriculum-aligned resources to support teaching and learning in schools.
“What sets it apart is its ability to engage youth actively in environmental action,” she adds. “It provides students with opportunities to take real steps towards caring for the environment, instilling in them a sense of agency and empowerment.
“It cultivates a sense of agency in both teachers and learners, motivating them to actively participate in nature conservation efforts.”
Anderson says her hope is to include the Plastic Changemakers programme in teacher training workshops, events, and immersive education experiences.
“Specifically, we are looking at incorporating the programme into our initiatives designed to raise awareness about plastic pollution, such as our beach clean-ups and in-school lessons.
“We will also be adding the programme materials to our online resource library for teachers to access.”
Ewees Mkumatela says the Breteau Foundation would welcome engagement with government departments, schools, communities and NPOs.
“Our success depends on partnerships with like-minded organisations who are committed to improving our environment through educational activities such as the Plastic Changemakers programme.”
For more information visit https://breteaufoundation.org/.