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DUT ECOTOURISM STUDENTS LAUNCH ONLINE INITIATIVE CALLED #VIKELAIMVELO

DUT ECOTOURISM STUDENTS LAUNCH ONLINE INITIATIVE CALLED #VIKELAIMVELO

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Second-year Midlands students from the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Department of Ecotourism recently launched their first-ever online community-engagement initiative called #vikelaimvelo which was geared towards identifying and highlighting the gravity of threats to biodiversity and how these have the potential to hinder the development of township and rural tourism.

ecopicqGiving more overview on the initiative, Thulile Ndlovu, a lecturer from the Department of Ecotourism, said that the hashtag #vikelaimvelo is an environmental awareness initiative that aims to share student-generated content with a focus on threats to biodiversity. She said that students were tasked, under the module Ecotourism Biology, which covers a section on Conservation Biology and Biodiversity; to identify and review threats to biodiversity in their areas of residence.

She indicated that the initiative recognised September as Tourism Month by bringing to the fore threats to the natural environment that are detrimental and a hindrance to the potential for township and rural tourism to develop.

September is also Heritage month; hence the hashtag is vernacular ‘#vikelaimvelo’ which translates to ‘protect the natural environment’. Students posted and tagged to their posts all relevant organisations, these included Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, WESSA, EDTEA, SANBI and many more. The idea was to launch an influential and successful online campaign, especially under the COVID-19 cloud. The posts were shared on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and YouTube.

Ndlovu stressed that the idea came to use the influence and power of social media and technology to share this original content, in order to educate and create awareness based on real-life situations in the communities.

In terms of Twitter, for Ndlovu, the biggest challenge encountered through using this platform was the reality that most of the DUT students did not use it and preferred Facebook. Therefore, as a lecturer, to express her support, she used her personal Twitter account to share these posts and reply to as many posts and tag as many organisations as possible.

“The first video to be posted was the #JerusalemaChallengeDance video, done strategically and purposefully to draw the attention of the audience. In addition to the video, I uploaded other videos, about 45 of them because the aim is to alert people on the seriousness of threats to biodiversity, particularly pollution. The tweet received likes from the Department of Higher Education and Training, Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, and the #breakfreefromplastic global movement, to name a few. The link to the Tweet is: https://twitter.com/thulithulizulu1/status/1306324119840006145?s=21,” she said.

Ndlovu added that now that the first successful phase of #vikelaimvelo has been implemented, which was aimed at identifying problems, the next phase will be solution-oriented.

“Phase Two should follow suit through student-generated, real-life and feasible solutions to the identified problems, mainly being land and water pollution from plastic, paper and all sorts of waste. We could all partake in a clean-up campaign as a short-term solution, from all the waste collected, do a request for space at Riverside campus to be used as an art gallery where art made from recyclable and waste material can be exhibited. This art gallery will be owned, managed and created by Ecotourism students,” she said.

Pictured: DUT Ecotourism student Nqubeko Wanda participating in the online campaign.

Pictured: DUT’s Thulile Ndlovu showcases the DUT online campaign called #vikelaimvelo which has over 5000 views.

Waheeda Peters

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