The Lapalala Wilderness School, founded by Clive Walker and Dale Parker more than 30 years ago, officially opened the doors to its new school building recently. The innovative eco-built campus has been funded by the Parker family and the Mapula Trust, under the guidance and direction of Duncan Parker, son of Dale Parker, with the assistance of Gianni Ravazzotti and the Italtile Foundation.
The sustainable design of the new school building makes efficient use of space and energy, with minimal impact on the surrounding landscape. Beautiful, rammed earth walls made with soil from on-site excavations are a feature of the campus. The official opening was attended by Clive Walker, the Parker family, existing clients and donors, board members and the media. A choir from the local Mphari High School entertained guests and thought-leader, entrepreneur and academic, Dr Reuel Khoza, gave a powerful keynote address. A plaque in memory of Dale Parker was unveiled, followed by a guided walk around the new school grounds.
The Mission Statement of the school reads: “To help our children and young adults discover the value of biodiversity in our natural world and our place within it and to identify and nurture Africa’s future conservation champions.” Children from neighbouring local communities are fully sponsored, and fee-paying schools come from various parts of South Africa to attend courses at both primary and secondary levels. In partnership with the Lapalala Wilderness Reserve, the school offers tertiary level students the opportunity to complete the practical components of their conservation qualifications.
The Lapalala Wilderness School is run by its director, Mashudu Makhokha, and a dedicated team of educators. “Our vision is to teach young people the concepts of conservation, ecology, the protection of wild creatures, wild landscapes and the natural resources of our environment. This school is an educational institution like no other. It uses the environment as its classroom to deliver learning that has the potential to create lasting change in both learners and the world in which they live,” Makhokha explains.
The experience at the school encourages an appreciation and love of nature via interpretive river walks, game drives, stargazing, spoor identification, and informative conservation and wildlife talks. Practical skills include creating food gardens, beekeeping, tree planting, water and energy audits, and how to recycle, repurpose or reuse waste material. The knowledge and skills gained at the Lapalala Wilderness School empower the youth to share what they have learned, and to play an active part in making a difference with the many challenges facing our planet.
*To learn more about the Lapalala Wilderness School: www.lwschool.org