School and community action with Eco-Schools
Much of the Cape Flats used to be covered by seasonal wetlands, which were flooded in winter but dried up in summer. Older residents of Retreat fondly remember a wetland called Blouvlei, but most people
thought it had been completely destroyed by housing developments. Two educational institutions in Retreat were named after Blouvlei, but it seemed as if this was all that remained of the wetland.
Then, in 1999, teachers at Crestway High School realised that the marshy area next to their school, which they regularly monitored with
their learners, was actually the remnants of Blouvlei. Since then the school has been working with the local community and municipality to try to conserve Blouvlei.
The school recognises the value of Blouvlei as a natural heritage site in the heart of the community. It is a place where residents can relax and enjoy nature, and where local schools can undertake fieldwork.
Crestway High School has an environmental project team coordinated by an enthusiastic and committed educator, Ms Evangeline (Vangi) Watkins. In collaboration with the municipality, local stakeholders and
volunteers, the team has developed an action plan to protect Blouvlei. Working with the community has been critical to Crestway starting to realise their vision for Blouvlei. Recently the school convinced the local library to withdraw an application to use the land for a car park; they are now a partner in the conservation project.
Like many open spaces in Cape Town, Blouvlei has become overgrown with alien bushes which attract people
involved in anti-social behaviour. Crestway High School has been consulting with stakeholders to get the area fenced, remove the alien vegetation and build a timber walkway which will improve the conservation and amenity value of the wetland.
Says teacher Vangi Watkins, “A golden thread [running through] our project is our advocacy of the awareness
of the importance of our natural environment to the people of our community. We are convinced that our project will play an enormous educative role in sensitising our community to the interplay between their needs as living human beings and the needs of their natural environment.”
Reflection: What features of the Eco-Schools project does this story illustrate?