Learners from across Namibia are ready to say ‘yes’ to the YES at Etosha. The seventh annual Youth Environmental Summit (YES), organised by Gobabeb Research and Training Centre, will be held at Namutoni in Etosha National Park over the May school holidays.
Learners have been selected from 23 different schools across seven regions, including Khomas, Erongo, Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena, Kunene, and Otjozondjupa, to partake in this unique training opportunity for high school students.
The Youth Environmental Summit is a weeklong science education programme hosted annually for thirty grade 11 learners. This year it will be held from 15th May to 21st, culminating with their presentations on the 22nd. During the course of the week, the learners take part in a scientific study guided by Gobabeb research mentors. The learners are trained in the steps of the scientific process, work with their peers and mentors to conduct fieldwork, collect and analyse data, and present their findings at the annual Biodiversity Day celebrations.
Each year, the YES research theme follows the theme set by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the International Day for Biological Diversity, celebrated May 22nd. The 2016 theme is “Mainstreaming Biodiversity: Sustaining People and their Livelihoods”.
An important part of the YES experience is giving learners the opportunity to experience fieldwork in environments that are unique to Namibia. Gobabeb partners with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and with Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (giz) to host the YES events in Namibia’s National Parks, and to bring learners from across the country together to study the biodiversity of Namibia’s diverse landscapes. Previous YES events have been hosted at Gobabeb Research and Training Centre in Namib-Naukluft Park, Waterberg Plateau National Park, and Sossusvlei. This year, the YES will be hosted at the Namutoni Environmental Education Centre in Etosha National Park.
The YES is a flagship training programme designed by Gobabeb Research and Training Centre, with the goal to offer Namibian learners the opportunity to engage with scientists in practical environmental science research, to complement the theory that they learn in classrooms. This has been the intention with the programme, since the first YES in 2012, funded by the Finnish Embassy. This initiative recognised the need for Namibia’s youth to gain practical first-hand experience in scientific field research, as well as exposure to environmental issues that are globally and nationally relevant.
The YES has successfully trained hundreds of learners and a dozen teachers since its inception in 2012, and continues to provide a meaningful and unique environmental education opportunity for Namibian learners. Many Namibian learners have gained more than just educational training from their YES experience; several YES alumni have gone on to pursue environmental fields in their tertiary education and beyond. This is in keeping with the aims of the YES, which include: offering learners an opportunity to interact with scientists and engage in field research, cultivating learners' scientific inquiry and critical thinking skills, and inspiring learners to explore future endeavours in scientific research and career opportunities in the environmental field.
The 2016 YES participants will be presenting their research findings at the Biodiversity Day celebrations, to be held at Namutoni Environmental Education Centre in Etosha National Park on 22 May from 9am. All are welcome to learn about some of the latest environmental research at Etosha from Namibia's next generation of scientists! (By: Oliver Halsey and Meg Schmitt)