Author: Alexei du Bois
The 2019 Routes to Resilience Sygnature Skills programme has well and truly started with a group of 55 engaged and curious Grade 11 learners from 18 different schools across the Western Cape. The students are also participating in the Go for Gold programme in the Western Cape.
The first three weeks have introduced learners to core concepts that provide a foundation for understanding climate change and routes to resilience and sustainability. These include a critical understanding of geological time and the Anthropocene, the climate system and current global context and system pressures, as well as an understanding of the importance of biodiversity.
Students have in this past week focused on developing their “21st Century skills” including observation, attentive listening, reflection, empathy, critical thinking, creativity, and communication.
As future leaders in the construction industry, understanding how the built environment can work with, and even mimic nature to promote sustainable development in urban settlements is a key part of this cohort’s learning. In this regard, learners had to reflect on their own urban and peri-urban communities’ sustainability challenges and map out the complex set of interrelated factors that contribute to these challenges.
The application of sustainability to the built environment comes at a time when South Africa needs creative thinking and sustainable design to enhance the sustainability and resilience of its urban settlements and cities. Throughout the session, there was a passionate and nuanced discussion that focussed on the ways in which urban and peri-urban settlements in South Africa are failing to respond to the urgent call to action on sustainable development by the United Nations through the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. It was clear that these learners were excited at the opportunity to take the discussion forward in subsequent Sygnature Skills sessions and were keen to look ahead at practical steps they could take to bring about change.
The Sygnature Skills programme aims to develop tomorrow’s leaders’ intrinsic capacity to imagine, explore and take action for a sustainable future. This programme enables youth to gain deep insight and understanding of the value of ecosystems services, how green spaces contribute to the social and economic quality of life in a city and what complexities and system synergies exist and could be encouraged to improve resilience and sustainability in the long run.
The first weeks of the 2019 Sygnature Skills programme have amply demonstrated that learners are keen to understand and respond positively to a rapidly changing future.