Program introduces South African students to citrus industry
Students at three South African high schools participated in a unique pilot program this year to learn the ins and outs of the citrus industry.
The Citrus Academy, with the support of the Citrus Growers' Association of Southern Africa, launched the secondary program in May, exposing a group of 60 students in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces to hands-on experiences and industry professionals.
Jacomien De Klerk, general manager of the academy, explained the original idea sprang from Kirkwood High School, an agricultural school where administration wanted to train students with employable, applicable skills by graduation.
"Even those [students] who do not want to study after school and just want to go and work on farms will be much more employable and better prepared for the workplace than anyone else applying for those jobs," De Klerk said.
"For them, it allows them to stay near their homes in rural areas, enabling them to build rewarding careers without having to move to the city. For us, it creates another pool of educated, skilled young people to grow the industry."
The three-year program takes students through 23 modules a cycle, lined up with the citrus growing season. The young people attend two classes a week and do field work during vacation time.
Each student is provided a set of learning aids, including citrus production guidelines, a pest identification guide, color and blemish charts, and audio-visual materials.
"We incorporate practical work in their assessment activities. So in order to prove competence in the harvesting module, they have to pick citrus or do orchard sanitation under supervision for a certain period. In most modules we do this," De Klerk said.
With the first year already over, the initial assessments of the program's approach have been good.
"The feedback we have received has been very positive, with learners enjoying this method of learning and facilitators finding it easy enough to implement. We work at making the learning material graphic and engaging to the younger eye, and to make information as easily digestible as possible," she said.
Although the current program works exclusively with the citrus industry, De Klerk said the organization does cooperate with other agricultural organizations, opening the possibility for similar programs in other fields in the future.