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From YMP student to YMP teacher

When I was 15, something special happened to me. Its memories are still preserved on a certificate hanging high in my office. The certificate is exposed to students coming in to see their class teacher. If the student is not shy, they’ll ask, “Where was this?” With an air of pride, I usually respond, “When I was your age I went to an international conference in Sweden!” Seven out of ten will quickly say, “Sir! Why can’t you take us to Sweden too?”

My name is Raphael T. Bhembe from the Kingdom of Swaziland. One summer day in 1999, my Science teacher called me to her office. On her table, there were official papers showing a green half-bit apple. After a brief explanation, I agreed to participate on an environmental education program called Young Masters Program. I and three other senior students sacrificed three hours on Friday afternoons to do the course. Back then, the internet was a novelty and the idea of sustainable development was still fresh. This was a great advantage! However, it took weeks to learn how to operate the internet properly.

In the Friday sessions, we did a lot of discussion work. Sometimes, we had to come to school on Saturday in order to catch up with the assignments. One great thing we studied was the environmental impact of a sugarcane factory near us. It was a “learn internationally, assess locally” experience. The material that came from Birgitta Norden about air pollution was true about the factory near us. Additionally, I was very familiar with “don’t litter” rules seen everywhere but it didn’t say anything to me. There were rules which I didn’t like to follow. Fortunately, the YMP course converted my mind about caring for the environment.

Our spirits were high as the day of the conference in Lund neared. It meant traveling overseas and flying on a plane for the first time. We prepared charts, conference talks and even a Swazi dance. In Lund, it was a great surprise to see Volvos operating as taxis; the magnificent bridge of Oresund; we went planting trees in a forest that had burned down; King Carl Gustaf XIV came for the water uniting ceremony; I was the flag bearer for Swaziland; we had wonderful conferences delivered by experts; we met people from all over the world.

Twelve years after GEYC 2000, I became a teacher after studying Philosophy in Tanzania. When I got the teaching post, the first thing that came to my mind was YMP for my students. Currently, I am teaching Social Studies (Life Orientation) at Michael Rua School in Johannesburg, Randvaal. If I have to teach global warming I use the YMP content in class. I am still amazed at the way the program has used technology to its advantage. In my day, there were no global internet classrooms.

My students are waiting to be assigned a global classroom. We have discussed the first Mission. Viva YMP!

- Raphael T. Bhembe, Kingdom of Swaziland

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Raphael T. Bhembe, 15 years, is on his way to participate at the GEYC 2000 conference in Sweden.

Raphael T. Bhembe is now a teacher in the Young Masters Programme, the same course he participated in as a student 14 years ago.