The president Abraham Lincoln once said that the philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. Here at Lapalala Wilderness School we really hope President Lincoln was right. If he was, we believe that the work we are doing in our ‘schoolroom’ today could very well transform the way our country is governed in the future by raising leaders who understand the importance of nurturing biodiversity and are aware of the imperative to put environmental sustainability at the very core of the political, economic and social strategies they develop.

The simple truth is that Lapalala Wilderness School is an educational institution like no other, one that uses the total environment as its classroom to deliver learning with immense impact and the real potential to create lasting change, both for the learners, and the world in which they live. The positive impact we are having is more than evident in the growth we have enjoyed over the past three decades. Back in 1985 when we first officially opened our doors, we welcomed just over 800 children and their teachers on 58 courses in the first year. In 2015, the number of young people and educators we have positively impacted has more than tripled from those early days, with well over 3 000 experiencing the life-changing transformation of a visit to Lapalala Wilderness School.

It is our hope, and indeed our belief, that a very large number of the young people who attend our various environmental education programmes every year will go on to be agents of real environmental change – whether just within their family circle, or in their community, or even for our country and the world.

Society desperately needs public and private sector leaders who will champion the biodiversity cause into the future. I am confident that many of those champions will, at some point in their lives, have begun their journey to environmental awareness at a bush school or similar natural education institution. In fact, I look forward to one day being able to say that some of the people who are saving our planet and its people first felt called to do so when they were youngsters attending a Lapalala Wilderness School programme.