Pupils display sensitivity to climate change in school debate series in Gauteng, South Africa

Climate change is in dire need of publicity to help the public make informed decisions about adaptation and mitigation – especially among the young generation. This is what motivated the African Climate Reality Project (ACRP) to organise climate change debates in 5 schools in the Gauteng Province, South Africa, as part of the Climate Change School Awareness campaign organised by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) from 10 to 18 October 2017.

Debates are a great way to raise awareness and mobilise the youth on climate change, as they give them the opportunity to advance their understanding of the issue through research and to challenge the accepted knowledge system. School debates are being used by many Climate Leaders as a way to educate and raise awareness to enable informed decision making, which plays an essential role in increasing adaptation and mitigation capacities of communities.

Debate at Dinwiddie High School in Germiston, facilitated by Gillian Hamilton; demonstration of solar panels by Sunny Morgan, “the Solar Guy”.

The campaign targeted Grade 11 pupils aged 15-16, engaging them on climate change and sustainability and seeking to promote a positive understanding of these issues.

Several Climate Reality Leaders joined the ACRP team in facilitating the debates: Gillian Hamilton at Dinwiddie High School in Germiston; Teboho Mosehle at Randfontein Secondary School in Randfontein and Kliptown Secondary School in Soweto; Joseph Mugumbate at Reiger Park Technical School in Boksburg; and Noelle Garcin at Krugersdorp High School in Krugersdorp.

The pupils debated on 3 motions:

• Motion 1: Renewable energy vs nuclear energy: which energy source would be the best for South Africa’s sustainable development?

• Motion 2: Should developing countries use their fossil fuel resources to achieve their development objectives?

• Motion 3: In South Africa, close to 90,000 people are employed by the coal sector. Moving away from fossil fuels means that many people will lose their current jobs. Can we fight unemployment and climate change at the same time?

Some 42 pupils took up the challenge to debate in front of an audience of up to 250 of their peers. Each debate saw two teams of three to four learners oppose each other on one of the 3 motions. Each team had 5 min to present its argument to defend its proposition, 5 min to raise questions to the argument presented by the other team and 5 min to rebut the points of information raised and conclude its argument.

Kliptown Secondary School Debate in Soweto

Reiger Park Technical School in Boksburg, facilitated by Joseph Mugumbate

Krugersdorp High School in Krugersdorp, facilitated by Noelle Garcin

The learners showed great organisation and understanding of the topic. They used their arguments well and displayed convincing presentation style.