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Iimbovane has been on the lips of educators and Grade-10 learners across the Western Cape from Beaufort West to Kayelitsha, and now thanks to a generous donation from Rand Merchant Bank, Iimbovane will be able to expand their reach to even more learners.

Ever since its launch, four years ago, the Iimbovane project has been a shining example of how the public and especially learners can contribute to scientific research by getting involved in data collection activities. Iimbovane (which means “ant” in iSiXhosa), is an environmental education programme that supports and empowers life science educators to implement biodiversity modules in their classrooms. To educate both learners and educators, the programme makes use of ant diversity and ant distribution to give educators and learners a better understanding of biodiversity science and environmental change.

The initial phase of the project was made possible by financial support from the British-based programme, the Darwin Initiative. This funding phase ended in 2008 and the project faced new challenges. Initiatives for the second phase were developed and after long discussions and late nights of proposal writing, the project was awarded a donation of Rand 500 000 from one of South Africa’s leaders in financial investment, Rand Merchant Bank.

Thirteen schools currently participate in the programme. However, the financial support from Rand Merchant Bank has allowed the project team to add another five more to the programme. The original 13 schools will remain the core of the programme as they form, together with their respective control sites, the long-term monitoring section of the project. During the expansion to additional schools, the project will keep to its original objectives by continuing to support Grade-10 learners and educators using use ants to explain principles of biodiversity and how it changes over time.

Recognizing that more schools will add to logistic challenges, Iimbovane is developing an additional programme to allow schools to join a subscription system at a level determined by the school. Schools taking part in this subscription programme will be provided with the basic equipment and materials needed to implement Iimbovane at their own schools.

Thanks to funding from Rand Merchant Bank, more Grade-10 learners will be able to join the Iimbovane project