The 8th of September was an exciting day for the KwaZulu-Natal Herbarium team who as part of their Arbor Day celebrations, visited Lihlithemba High School in Ndwedwe, 60 km north of Durban.

They were invited by a school teacher who was acquainted with the outreach programme that the herbarium has with some schools for important environmental days. The team organised an Arbor Week celebration programme that would cover the importance of biodiversity, Arbor Day and climate change, and how planting trees impacts all three.

Each team member had their responsibilities for the day, Sanelisiwe Miya introduced the team and gave some background and history of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the herbarium. She spoke of the importance of conservation work, challenges within the sector and what each person can do in their individual capacity. This also gave her a chance to speak from the heart on her journey from a background, not so far from the learners to where she is now.

Talia Krishanlal spoke on career choices in the sector, and internships and bursaries offered at SANBI. She also spoke on her journey from intern to her current position as a Senior Technician: Science Collections at SANBI.

The school has 3 grade 12 Science classes with 62 learners in total. 6 grade 12 learners participated in the speech writing competition, with the remaining four slots given to grade 10 and 11 learners –so as to expose them to these kinds of opportunities, so that they do better in their studies.

The students responded to the call with resounding eagerness, with well-prepared and informative speeches. The team was awed by the confidence and enthusiasm in which these speeches were delivered.

Zulu Botanical Knowledge Project (ZBKP) books were handed out to everyone in the audience, and Tree of the Year posters for the participating classes. Ten fleece sets were procured for each of the ten participants that consisted of: a beanie, a pair of gloves and a scarf in a drawstring bag. No one went home with empty handed, speaking to one of our core values of Ubuntu.

The calibre was so high that in the end, there were 5 winners instead of three. Best Speaker, Sikhona Ntombela, won a tour of the herbarium and will get to spend a day there, experiencing what a typical day at the herbarium is like.

eThekwini Municipality donated ten trees to be planted on the day, with a tree for each of the participants.

The school principal gave thanks and spoke highly of the team’s presence at the school, for which he was very appreciative.

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