The Department of Water and Sanitation and Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) have jointly scooped the ‘Water for Life’ UN-Water Best Practices Award. The annual award aims to acknowledge and promote efforts to meet international commitments made on water and related issues by 2015. The award recognises outstanding projects that are working to ensure sustainable long-term management of water resources and to help achieve the water and sanitation targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
The theme of the awards for this year was ‘Water and Sustainable Development‘. The DWS/WESSA Eco-Schools Water Project was awarded in the category ‘Best participatory, communication, awareness-raising and education practices’ and shares the award with Project India. The DWS/WESSA Eco-Schools Water Project, which was officially launched at the Youth Summit on Water and Climate Change in July 2014, encourages water conservation and the wise use of water resources at school level from Grades R to 12.
The project’s main objective is to strengthen water and sanitation education in South Africa through the international Eco-School Programme’s 7-step framework for Education for Sustainable Development Learning and Change. These steps guide schools through a learning process that promotes water conservation and sanitation education, as well as engaging learners in enquiry-based learning methods that empower them to better understand their local water context and to take action to improve this.
The 50 participating schools, located in eight provinces across South Africa, are required to set up a water action project that includes the entire school and members of the local community. The project has a strong inclusivity focus, emphasising public participation, participatory learning processes and action taking. The project is also aimed at supporting the DWS’s successful Baswa le Meetse (Youth and Water) competition and awards, a Ministerial project that has been active since 2003.
“The success of the project, now recognised by this significant international award, is an example of government and civil society organisations working together effectively in the education and environmental conservation fields,” the department said on Friday.
WESSA Eco-Schools has a long standing relationship with the Department of Water and Sanitation. Through the initiative of former Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, WESSA was selected in 2013 to assist the department in achieving their Vision2020 national objectives by deepening the learning and implementation of sustainable practices around water at schools.
“The international Eco-Schools Programme itself has been implemented in the country by WESSA since 2003 and is currently funded nationally by Nampak,” the department noted.
The award is managed by the United Nations Office to Support the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” 2005-2015/UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and the UN World Water Assessment Programme.
The 2015 awards was formally presented on 30th March 2015 during the opening of Water for Life Voices Exhibition in New York City.