Outdoor Learning

Waterford Kamhlaba’s Nyatsela 21-Day Walk

Resources


What is Nyatsela’s role at Waterford Kamhlaba?

Waterford Kamhlaba is a UWC and IB college, and as such is informed by the educational models of these two institutions. Point 3 of the UWC’s summary of its educational model is “experiential learning” or “making meaning from direct experience”, where “opportunities for students to practice personal initiative, self discipline and responsibility, to manage risk and embrace challenge must be provided”. Nyatsela hopes to do just that.

The UWC document explains further:

Experiential learning is fundamental to UWC. ... Young people are thrust into a dynamic and diverse community. This situation provides a plethora of challenging experiences to inspire a range of emotions and learning opportunities. These experiences can be challenging, joyful, frustrating, and life-changing.

UWC provides a safe and supportive environment from which to learn through direct experience. By living and working together, students develop empathy and make sense of their experiences through such means as reflection, dialogue, trial-and-error, and perspective taking. Along with living in a diverse community, students have opportunities to initiate and collaborate on areas of passion, interact with the larger community, and take advantage of service, creative, and physical opportunities.

All of these programmes provide rich experiences for making meaning and learning. Experiential Education is a more formal pedagogy that employs a philosophical stance and a variety of methodologies. Teachers and staff intentionally provide opportunities for students to engage in activities, exercises, and events to mindfully make meaning and apply emerging skills and understanding.

Nyatsela will inculcate the UWC values of “respect for the environment”, “personal challenge” and “intercultural understanding”, and operates out of the UWC guiding principle that “physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle are integral to the balanced development of the whole person. Unhealthy lifestyles limit human potential and hinder progress in all dimensions of development.” It hopes to use the opportunities which experiential learning provides to establish good habits at a cellular level, where a person develops good habits by doing them.

Nyatsela will also play a crucial role in helping our students to fit the “IB learner profile”, a picture of the kind of person the IB wants its learners to become.

  • Inquirers – students will find themselves in unfamiliar situations and will be encouraged to explore them independently
  • Knowledgeable – new experiences will provide opportunities for enormous growth in knowledge
  • Thinkers – facilitators are trained to encourage students to use several thinking skills identified by the IB
  • Communicators – communication will be key to achieving a successful group dynamic
  • Principled – behaviours will be interrogated so that students explore and establish principles
  • Open-minded – immersion in the unfamiliar will develop a habit of open-mindedness
  • Caring – small groups will foster an environment of caring and interdependence
  • Risk-takers – students will find themselves challenged physically and emotionally and will be supported in taking reasonable risks to help them grow
  • Balanced – the walk will nurture the awareness of a need for balance in life
  • Reflective – students will be encouraged to keep a journal, and numerous opportunities for reflection will encourage this excellent habit

During WK’s strategic planning drive of 2015, we identified that one of the areas needing growth in the college was the area of outdoor education.

So in 2015, the seed of an idea was planted. It was only in 2017, however, that it started to sprout, when Mrs Elinor Lowry brought a proposal to the school management team, outlining a project to take the Form 3s for a 3-week walk around the country which would achieve the following broad purposes:

  • getting to know Eswatini – its people, its beauty and its flora and fauna
  • developing the key values and aspects of the IB and the UWC movement (see above)
  • developing resilience, perseverance and decision-making skills: key factors in achieving success at school and all areas of life
  • learning to rely on oneself; independence

The proposal was accepted, and work began:

  • Research:
    • Research into a dozen similar projects world-wide
    • Contact with 4 SA schools who have ten or more years of experience doing extended walks of three weeks or more: St Albans, Pretoria; St Andrews and the Diocesan School for Girls, Grahamstown; Somerset College, Somerset West.
    • Spend time on the “John Jones Fish River Journey” in November 2017 and on the St Albans Journey in August 2018
    • Mentored by Des Turton (St Albans) and Pete Andrew (St Andrews)
    • Visited UWC SEA and UWC Li Po Chin to learn from their outdoor education facilitators
    • Researched outdoor education and adventure management
  • Route planning
    • 20 overnight stops needed to be found, meeting requirements of safety, reasonable distance, manageable terrain and willing hosts
    • several academic and support staff members became involved, offering their houses or introducing us to their Chief
    • a mixture of camping resorts, public school buildings, private hosts and Chiefs’ homesteads were visited to set up our 20 nights
  • Facilitators
    • Each group of 12 or 13 students will have 3 facilitators from the school community: a teacher/tutor and two others (support staff or past students)
  • Safety
    • we are governed by a policy never to knowingly expose any of our students to danger, and to inform ourselves rigorously
    • safety standards and procedures for similar ventures were explored and adapted to our situation
    • experts were consulted on snakes (Thea Litschka-Koen and Richard Boycott); crocodiles and hippos (Caro Mhlabane of Mlilwane; Derek Hopf of the Angling Society at Maguga); diseases (Mark Mills, Medical Director of the Clinic Group); medical emergency procedures (Tawanda Munyoro of Emergency Alert); similar programmes (Pete Andrew of St Andrews/DSG “JJFR Journey” and Des Turton of St Albans “Journey”)
    • dangers were evaluated using a Risk Analysis proposed by ISASA schools
    • steps were taken to modify the walk where necessary
    • First Aid training was arranged for volunteer students and all facilitators

You can read more about Nyatsela by having a look at the Nyatsela brochure or flyer.

Supporting Nyatsela

We welcome any contribution towards the whole project including financial support and other aspects such as food, gear, transportation, printing and accommodation. You could also support one or more individuals. You can contact Elinor Lowry at: elinor.lowry@waterford.sz or call: +268 7846 8154.


FAQs

1. Is Nyatsela compulsory?

Yes, it is. This initiative is an integral part of the WK form 3 curriculum and has been designed to achieve one of the objectives of the Waterford Strategic Plan, adopted in 2015. From the start of 2017, CAS has been extended down from the IB Diploma Programme years to all year groups and Nyatsela is a key component of the Form 3 CAS curriculum. It is considered as compulsory as any of the academic or co-curricular programmes offered at the College.

In addition the walk will be highly beneficial for you – it will help you develop a rounded and mature approach to life. It will help your study skills as well.  We've spent a lot of time exploring what WK and the IB consider as key skills, and we've made sure these will be offered during your Nyatsela. (See FAQ on educational benefits)

You should also note that in Mr Lowry's newsletter of 1 Feb  2019 he discussed the importance of the CAS programme in supporting your holistic education and making you the kind of student who will be well prepared to take on the challenges of life at WK, the IB programme and life in general. It notes that: "Participation in CAS activities is often a distinguishing criterion for determining the suitability of internal applicants for the IB diploma programme.”

Most importantly, you need to know that you can do it!

Form 3 in 2019, your group is the pioneer group! You will FOREVER be the “Pioneer Pilgrims”, the “Nyatsela Number One”, the “First Footprinters”! Enjoy the glory!!

2. What is the educational value of Nyatsela?

Nyatsela is a crucial component of education at Waterford Kamhlaba, with its UWC values and its IB approaches to teaching and learning throughout the school. The IB seeks to educate learners to be: enquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principles, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, reflective. Some of these values are taught in a traditional class-room setting, but some of them are far more easily learnt in an outdoor environment.

The IB has identified five ATLs (Approaches to Teaching and Learning), which aim to nurture key life-long learning skills. At Waterford Kamhlaba we now evaluate students on their progress in the following areas:

  • Research skills
  • Thinking skills
  • Communication skills
  • Social skills
  • Self-management skills

Below I have adapted the ATLs to Nyatsela situations. On the journey, the skills will be actively nurtured (and consciously assessed) by the adult facilitators in each Nyatsela group. We are of the opinion that if a student engages fully with the Nyatsela experience, and develops the habit of applying these skills thoroughly, his or her experience throughout WK, the IB Diploma and life will be significantly enhanced.

Research skills (in culture)

  • Ask appropriate questions: “Are rural and urban ways of living very different?” “What problems does a chief have to solve?” “Is it considered rude to refuse food in somebody’s house?” “
  • Consciously gather information: Ask friends as you are walking along together; ask your hosts; look for evidence as you are walking past settlements and villages.
  • Evaluate sources: “Where have my friends received their information from?”
  • Synthesise responses: “If my friend’s information differs from that of the chief, what could be the cause of that difference?” “Whom will I believe, and to what extent?”
  • Reflect on process: “Does this new knowledge affect my beliefs or attitudes in any way?” “How does this process apply to other areas of research?” “How could I apply this process in my family, in the classroom, with my friends?”

Thinking skills (in facing scary situations)

  • Evaluate situations: “My friend does not like crossing rivers”
  • Formulate questions: “Can we avoid it?” “Is this the best place to cross?” “Where is the path?” “Is the river deep/dangerous?” “What is making you scared, exactly?”
  • Consider options: “Should I help him?” “How?” “Should he rather tackle it himself?” “How?” “What can I do to support him?”
  • Develop critical thinking: “How is this similar to yesterday’s situation when X was reluctant to try soya mince?” “How could we adapt yesterday’s solution to this situation?” “Does this approach offend anyone’s morals?”
  • Co-operate in thinking: “Who can think of other alternatives?” “What if we combine your idea and mine?”
  • Solve problems: “Yay – he got to the other side of the river!”

Communication skills

  • Adapting to audience and purpose
    • Frequently on Nyatsela, students will be in a situation which requires them to convey a message, such as "I noticed that you are struggling today … Can I help?” Since they will be with unfamiliar friends, they will need to find ways to communicate this message effectively for the new situation.
  • Articulating thoughts
    • The students will be helped to discover ways to articulate these thoughts. They will not have their cell phones with them, which will give them plenty of ‘thinking’ time to ponder these things.
  • Listening skills
    • There will be frequent ‘debriefing’ sessions where a reflection on the journey will be facilitated. The group will explore ways of listening and be able to put them into practice immediately.
  • Evaluating the message
    • Further sessions will use fun activities to reflect on the success with which they have communicated their messages.

Social skills

  • Team work
    • The importance of team work will be reinforced in many very real situations. Students and facilitators will encounter challenges of many different kinds: how do we get across this river; how do we resolve this clash of personalities; how do we help this group who burnt their rice, etc. In each situation there will be those who feel more empowered to help and those who feel less so. Sometimes one’s physical strength will be needed, and sometimes one’s emotional sensitivity or one’s generosity or one’s ridiculous jokes. It will not always be the same person who is in trouble and it will not always be the same person who is able to help. The team will get to know each other’s strengths and each person in the group will have the chance to become aware of the important role that they play in this team.
  • Consensus and compromise
    • A small group of 12 or 13 students and 3 adults makes it easy to work on finding consensus through discussion or sensitivity to various personalities. Walking and working in a microcosm of society gives a controlled and relatively safe environment in which to expose oneself to the sometimes painful process of compromise. These skills can be practised here and will be invaluable in the ‘real world’.
  • Leadership
    • Students will be offered positions of leadership in various explicit ways (as first aider, photographer, day-leader, etc), and there will also be implicit opportunities to lead, as discussed in ‘team work’ above.
  • Networking
    • There will be the chance over 21 days to interact with different people. Participants will get to know who to approach for specific issues: who is knowledgeable about nature, who is resourceful with new recipes, who is experienced in camping skills, etc.
  • Sharing of ideas and responsibilities
    • Frequently people have good ideas but don’t have the opportunity or sometimes the courage to share them. It will become clear in this journey that every person’s contribution is helpful, and hopefully this will encourage people to recognize the value of their contribution.

Self-management skills

  • Resilience
    • This is probably the skill that will be practised the most on Nyatsela. Students will realise that they can succeed in unusual and unfamiliar circumstances. Every day students will feel a sense of accomplishment as their perseverance is rewarded.
  • Time-management
    • Since nature offers no “extensions”, this is a perfect environment to learn time management.
  • Decision-making
    • Again, Nyatsela is the perfect place to learn about decision-making and consequences. Facilitators will make students conscious of their decision-making, but will not interfere with the decision (unless this is necessary). They will also not rescue them from the consequences of their decisions, and this process will facilitate the analysis and improvement of decision-making skills. These can be applied to situations in school and in all areas of life. In many ways, Nyatsela is a miniature of one’s life.
  • Self-reflection
    • Self-reflection will be facilitated by frequent explicit debriefing sessions, as well as directed conversations throughout the journey.
  • Independence
    • The adults in the group are trained to act as facilitators, not teachers. They will hold the safety net while the students practise independence at this crucial stage in their development as they transition from children to adults.

The full list of the IB ATLs, which are assessed in all subjects (including Nyatsela) and reported on in our regular school reports:

Research skills

  • Ask appropriate questions
  • Consciously gather information
  • Evaluate sources
  • Synthesise responses
  • Reflect on process

Thinking skills

  • Evaluate situations
  • Formulate questions
  • Consider options
  • Develop critical thinking
  • Co-operate in thinking
  • Solve problems

Communication skills

  • Adapting to audience and purpose
  • Articulating thoughts
  • Listening skills
  • Evaluating the message

Social skills

  • Team work
  • Consensus and compromise
  • Leadership
  • Networking
  • Sharing of ideas and responsibilities

Self-management skills

  • Resilience
  • Time-management
  • Decision-making
  • Self-reflection
  • Independence
3. What about hygiene?

Perhaps the most frequently-asked questions have centred on the bathroom! “Going to the bathroom” during Nyatsela will take a variety of forms. Sometimes there will be convenient flush toilets, but in some homesteads and schools, the toilets will be dry toilets: still with a seat, but with no running water. There will also be times (in the nature reserves and on some stretches) when the only “toilet” will be a quiet spot behind the nearest bush. In these situations, and throughout the walk, we are encouraging the students to follow the practices of the “Leave No Trace” movement. Each group will carry a small spade. The “pressed” student will ask for the spade, find a secluded bush, dig a decent hole and go about his/her business. Toilet paper will be deposited in the hole to minimise impact. Students can then wash their hands or wipe them on a wet-wipe which will be added to the rubbish-bag that will be carried to the next place of disposal. Girls in the flow part of their menstrual cycle will be advised to carry squares of newspaper in which to wrap each used sanitary item. Again, these will be carried out to the next rubbish-drop. This is common practice amongst hikers and campers (especially those who follow the “Leave No Trace” principles) and also in many communities around the world, including in Eswatini (CHECK). We also want our girls and women of the future to go into life with the knowledge that menstruation does not restrict what women can do.

4. I hear we have to go on a raft. Is this true and will we be safe?

Yes, this is true! It’s one of the exciting alternatives to walking which is arranged for a small part of the journey … These alternatives are rare, so make the most of it as you plonk your backpack down on the deck! Put your feet up for a change, and enjoy the glorious views!

The raft has been built by our maintenance department, with safety in mind. A motor-boat from the Angling Association of Swaziland will escort the raft whenever a group is on it. Each member of the group will have to wear a life-jacket on the raft. We will get on and off at launching points designated by the authorities, and will avail ourselves of the opportunity to rest our legs a little!

5. Is Nyatsela safe?

Yes, it is. The safety of the Nyatsela walkers is our highest priority … along with putting together an interesting, varied, adventurous and educational experience. Care-givers can be assured that the students will not be exposed to any unnecessary risk while we are encouraging them to try new experiences, push their limits and expand their horizons! In line with best practice for such activities around the world we have undertaken an extensive risk analysis of the entire journey and daily activities including each geographical area, analysed any risks (and discussed where appropriate with experts) and initiated mitigation strategies where necessary.

Some aspects of this safety component are:

  • Each group of 12 or 13 students will be accompanied by 3 adults, which is a generous interpretation of the recommended ratio for such adventurous excursions of 1 adult to 10 children.
  • At least one of these adults will be a teacher.
  • Adult facilitators will also receive specialised training which will cover first aid, group management, map-reading, caring for equipment care, generating solutions to perceived problems, camping and hiking protocols, safety procedures, etc.
  • At least two students from each group will also receive specialised first aid training.
  • Nyatsela has been scheduled for winter so that the key risks of snakes and lightning are significantly reduced. Heat-exhaustion and rain will also be less likely.
  • Several additional precautions have been taken in the case of snakes, since these cause anxiety in several people. Several staff members have attended snake courses; Thea Litschka-Koen, southern Africa’s key snake expert, addressed the community on Tuesday 5 Feb; participants were told how to prevent an encounter with a snake and what to do if this does happen; facilitators’ training will again cover what to do if a snake-bite occurs; and our medical consultant is poised to deal with the problem if it does arise. All expert advice we have received is that the likelihood of encountering a snake on the highveld in winter is almost zero.
  • Students will participate in various practical workshops on different topics such as hygiene, hydration, safe practices when walking, safety in cooking, etc.
  • We have arranged for Reggie Mapanga (an Olympic swimmer) to be available free of charge at the school pool from 11h00-16h00 every Saturday and Sunday of the first term for those students who wish to take swimming lessons.
  • At one point we will be on a raft. Please note that this exercise will be very safe. The raft is built with safety in mind; the students will each wear a life-jacket; the launching point and disembarkation point will be approved by KOBWA (the Komati Basin Water Authority); and we will be escorted by a boat from the Angling Association.
  • Guards will watch our students and their equipment while we are sleeping at the schools along the way.
  • Where we are walking through Swazi nation land, the chief of the area has been approached and has given assurance that we will be warmly welcomed and looked after in that community.
  • When we walk through Malolotja and Ngwempisi, we will be accompanied by rangers.
  • A group (including the principal) will walk the whole route in April, taking note of ways to improve the safety and success of Nyatsela.
  • An extensive back-up team will be on alert at the school throughout the whole of Nyatsela.
  • The school has also arranged to have a highly-qualified and experienced paramedic, Tawanda Munyoro, on call throughout Nyatsela to co-ordinate the best response to emergencies. He will be backed up by the Clinic Group and its Medical Director, who is the Chair of the Board of Governors at WK, Dr Mark Mills.
6. What training will the facilitators and the students receive beforehand?

Although most of the learning will happen along the way, there are several skills that will help students and facilitators to make the most out of Nyatsela, so we will be conducting various training workshops before July.

Adult training workshops will cover the following:

  • First-Aid by a qualified and experienced Outdoor First-Aid trainer
  • Map reading and expectations of the route
  • Basic Siswati phrases and aspects of culture which might help with relationship-building along the way
  • Care and use of tents and equipment
  • The principles of “Leave No Trace” hiking and camping
  • Fitness and water safety
  • Nature observation – learning to identify a few birds, animals and trees that might be encountered on the way
  • Standard Operation Procedures (what to do in various situations)
  • Leading a group (how to empower the students to make decisions wisely and live peacefully with the consequences)

Workshops with the students will either be covered in lesson time or during two weekend camp-outs. Please ensure that the student(s) in your care attend these camp-outs. It will get them used to the idea, thus allaying fears of the unknown, and it will give them a chance to learn vital skills.

Their lessons, workshops and camp-outs will cover the following skills:

  • First Aid by the same dynamic trainer, Tawanda Munyoro
  • Map reading by the highly qualified Simon Ramsay
  • Siswati phrases and culture, care of tents and equipment, LNT (as above)
  • Fitness with Mr Lowry and others
  • Free swimming lessons with Reggie Mapanga every Saturday and Sunday (as necessary) from 11:00 onwards – it is vital that you ensure that the student in your care is water-safe
  • Nature observation as above
  • Team work and how to be a polite and helpful guest
  • Meals: how to budget, plan and cook, and how to maintain healthy nutrition
7. What if someone in my group is really scared of heights or rivers or the dark?

Very good question. Finding the solution to this is a key part of what will make Nyatsela so educational. Remember that you and the adult facilitators will be trained in these skills before you leave, and the whole of Nyatsela will be about practising the skills that will help you to help your group find a workable solution to this question and so many others.

There will probably be situations which will challenge everybody in different ways: some are scared of heights, some of frogs, some of sleeping without a light on, some of meeting new people, and some might be scared by the prospect of having to write in their journals, etc.

Your group will work together to find solutions for these situations. You will remember what you will have been taught about (for example) looking for lots of different possible solutions, rejecting some, exploring others, following strings of possible consequences, selecting a solution that works for the best in this particular solution and then communicating and acting in a way that ensures the best possible outcome, and in turn dealing with the consequences (bad OR good) of these choices. Your small group of 13 students and 3 adult facilitators will be drawn close to each other through these processes, and you will be surprised at the relationships that you will develop!

8. Why is it three weeks?

Most of the programmes I have explored spend at least three weeks on their hike or in the outdoors. It is of course true that there are hikes that last shorter than three weeks, but these serve a different purpose.

Schools around the world who have opted for three-week outdoor programmes speak of the building of character and maturity: the necessity to truly confront challenging issues rather than being able to essentially ignore them for two weeks. When a challenge is overcome once, the lesson is mainly cerebral, but when one is repeatedly challenged, the lesson sinks deeper into the fabric of one’s being, forming what some call a ‘cellular memory’ of how to cope. One forms a new and successful habit.

Maxwell Maltz (in his book Psycho-Cybernetics) claimed that it took 21 days to form a habit, and although in reality it seems that it is not quite so clear-cut, there still seems to be something about persisting with something for three weeks. Try it and see – will Nyatsela be a life-changing experience for you?


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