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JNF focuses on SA water sustainability and education

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For decades, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) was known for raising money to develop Israel’s agriculture and environment, but its focus has grown to include helping South Africa become water secure and environmentally sustainable.

JNF South Africa is also now on an “aggressive campaign” to help get scholars who have fallen behind in science, geography, and technology back on track so they can become successful contributing members of society.

So said JNF South Africa Chairperson Michael Kransdorff to a crowd of dignitaries and community members at the JNF’s Gin and Jazz evening in Sandton on Sunday evening.

Before being entertained by the talented Avi Salitan and Esra Sher singing to the backing of Yochi Ress, Peter Sklair, Dan Selsick, and Posho Lebese, Kransdorff gave the crowd some food for thought.

He introduced many to the JNF’s award-winning Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre in Mamelodi, the beneficiary of the evening’s events, which is “providing assistance to help South Africa better manage our coming water crisis”.

Kransdorff said the JNF and its partners, KKL and the Arava Center in Israel, were expanding the centre to “bring Israeli water and agricultural technology to South Africa to help improve the lives of people here and ensure water and food security”.

He said the centre had become a huge education and learning site. “More than 10 000 pupils from 41 schools come through our doors every year,” he said. “Many have gone on to launch their own environmental projects in their neighbourhoods or to pursue careers in environmental science.”

JNF SA also runs an annual Mamelodi greening programme with the community in which thousands of trees are planted and people are trained in basic horticulture.

Kransdorff explained how the centre is intent on bridging the learning gap that lockdown inflicted on scholars in science, technology, and geography.

“COVID-19 has had devastating impact on poor communities. It was hard enough for wealthy children to sit on Zoom for two years, but can you imagine without all of that what schools in poor communities were able to do?” asked Kransdorff. “If this situation isn’t improved urgently, there’s a real result of having a lost generation of black South Africans who will be unable to access job opportunities and be lost in poverty.

“So, we will focus on assisting the department of education with programmes at our centre that will help children recover some of this lost ground in geography, technology, and science.”

Kransdorff explained how during the pandemic, the centre was also challenged with the closure and restriction of schools. So, it pivoted to train community organisations and schools to grow their own food gardens to ward off hunger.

The centre’s team also launched a recycling education campaign throughout the township as a way for people to earn extra money during the pandemic.

The centre has recently been accredited as a science centre, one of only 11 in the country and the only one in a township.

If you would like to make a donation, please contact the JNF office at 011 645 2579 or b.schneider@jnfsa.co.za.

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