Sustainability is a concept that is very popular but has not yet been properly understood by most people, especially those who live in undeveloped and developing countries. “Since the late 1980’s there has been an explosion in the number of texts and articles, plus courses and consultants, which are concerned with sustainable forms of development” (Hall, 2000:I). The major problem regarding an understanding of this concept is generally brought about by being not adequately informed. Books are being written, papers are being presented at conferences, articles are being published, and technology has also reached a turning point with regard to information dissemination. The only drawback to all these positive initiatives is that they are not easily accessible, especially to those people living in the rural areas of South Africa. These areas are not adequately resourced, hence the type of lifestyle that is being led — one in which people engage in activities that are beyond the ability of the environment, which is their resource base, to sustain itself. It should also be noted that these people are not acting out of ignorance but out of a need to survive, thus putting the resource base under pressure. Environmental education is that component of education that enlightens and conscientises people about their immediate environment. Though its principles and guidelines are set according to international standards, they can and should be broken down and simplified in order to fit into the lifestyles, value systems, social systems and education (formal and informal) of the people at the grassroots level. Through this process, people will start to appreciate their own environment, to use it but handle it in a manner that will still enable future generations also to have their own experiences with it. This appreciation will also enable them to not only acknowledge the economic value of the environment, but also to integrate it with its social value as well as its environmental value. Organisations and institutions are involved in the distribution of information on environmental education principles, which leads to people being knowledgeable about conservation matters and thus implementing them in order to achieve sustainable living. One such institution is the Pilanesberg National Park. It is concerned with ecotourism issues but also has an education centre, which is aimed at conscientising people, not only ecotourists, regarding conservation matters and environmental education, as an act of adding value to society. This study investigates the impact that the Pilanesberg National Park has on peoples’ living environment, and especially on communities on its north-eastern border. It will look at the role of authorities in the area, such as the municipality council, the Pilanesberg education centre authorities and members of the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela Tribal authority, in a quest to determine the role that they play in helping the communities to be environmentally literate and therefore to live sustainably. The investigation also considers into the community at large, that is, the youth, women and other members of the community, to discover whether they live sustainably and do receive or have received information about environmental education and are able to put this into practice. The study has revealed that most of the people of the Mogwase - Saulspoort area are not even aware of the educational centre at the Pilanesberg Park and that even those who know, have never visited the centre and do not know anything about its activities nor that there is an opportunity for them, through this centre, to become informed about issues of conservation and sustainability. The study has also revealed that there is a tremendous amount of interest within these communities to start learning about conservation matters, environmental education principles and guidelines as well as about sustainability. Schools have also shown interest in forming environmental clubs where issues of the environment can be tackled. Future action is guided by suggestions for the formation of environmental clubs and also the management of them.
Dissertation (MEd (Education Management))--University of Pretoria, 2005.