Xoliswa Fuyani

Xoliswa Fuyani is committed to teaching young people how to manage their waste in a way that allows fish to swim and birds to fly. But there is a question that daily plagues the environmental co-ordinator for Earthchild: “How can you love nature if you have never experienced it?” Even through the South African curriculum places huge importance on experiential learning, many schools lack the resources to create a garden, let alone to take their learners into the countryside. Fuyani and Earthchild, a Cape Town-based non-governmental organisation, aim to close this gap, teaching children to understand that there is a cycle to all things. Born and raised in Gugulethu, 29-year-old Fuyani is acutely aware of how seldom township youth get the opportunity to leave their tough urban environment to spend time in nature. Her own interest in the protection of the environment was born after school, when she got involved with the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa’s Eco-Schools project in 2003. As an eco-schools co-ordinator she became involved in Mission Antarctica, a campaign that raised environmental awareness among the youth through a team of environmental activists who travelled 16 000km around South Africa in six months. Today Fuyani spends her weekdays teaching students in eight schools: three in Khayelitsha and five in Lavender Hill, about worm farming. The classroom worm farms are a fun way to learn about waste reduction and recycling. Simultaneously, through the process, organic waste is transformed into a useful resource for the school. Funyani is the organisational force behind environmental outings for the schools and the monthly hikes arranged by Earthchild. She believes that allowing children to experience “what it feels like to stand in a forest, surrounded by the stillness and glory of nature” is the surest route to raising a generation that respects themselves, others and the world. — Taryn Mackay