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StarLion Education Initiative

The White Lion Trust believes that conservation education is critical in children’s formative years and hence focuses its Schools Program at the level of the community’s youth, for a sustainable model of living.

The symbol of the White Lion provides the ideal teaching vehicle for broader concepts such as responsible civic participation, leadership through enlightenment, conservation and community orientated values, personal growth and self-confidence through purpose and ‘lion-hearted’ values.

Through this Schools Program, the WLT aims to harness the White Lion as the ideal cultural symbol to re-ignite the principles of self-actualisation, leadership, purpose and cultural identity and make ‘little stars’ amongst the youth of local communities.

Community-based Conservation Environmental education is the key to sustainability, and the ecology-economy of the future. Communities which celebrate and protect their environment and heritage are empowered communities, with a rich sense of individual and group pride, growth and unity.

The White Lion Trust launched this School’s Program in 2004. It focuses on local schools on the cusp of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, using arts and theatre to reconnect the indigenous youth with a sense of pride and self-worth. Schools have been trained to produce ‘intelligent conservation drama’, which interprets the critical issues associated with White Lion Conservation, a successful concept that resulted in presentation to Dr
Nelson Mandela in October 2007. For National Heritage Day celebrations 2009, 18 community schools participated in the White Lion Heritage Day Celebrations, jointly hosted by the WLT and the local Maruleng Municipality.

In 2009, the WLT partnered the local Maruleng Municipality with a community-conservation campaign, entitled: Protecting our White Lion Heritage Beyond 2010. The Cultural Heritage and Eco Education program has been established to encourage environmental awareness and social responsibility. It is an outcomebased educational program which recognises our rich cultural heritage as the key to community healing, empowerment and upliftment. The White Lion is a motivational beacon used for educational purposes to create a sense of self-worth, pride and joy in our culture, heritage, environment and people. This program identifies schools as potential visitor destinations, providing a rural platform to showcase their cultural performances, exhibitions, and arts and craft achievements for foreign visitors and learner groups visiting from outlying schools.

To foster clear awareness of, and concern about, economic, social, heritage, political and ecological interdependence amongst our learners in the Bushbuckridge and Maruleng/Mopani area. To provide every learner with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, cultural values and skills needed to support themselves and conserve their environment. ‘ Little Stars of Light’ Project 2011 The inspiring leadership qualities embodied by Lion are intended to create little stars out of all participants, empowering scholars with self-worth, cultural expression and motivational principles of unity, collaboration and tolerance across class and ethnic barriers. The program is based on the belief that each and every member of the school is as meaningful as all that surrounds them, and they can, therefore, make a difference.

Project Objectives:
What will this project do, and what is its impact on the affected community:
The Project focus on engaging the youth in two ways:



  • culturally, through their own creative expression and performance
  • psychologically, through espousing higher ideals as represented by radiant symbol of the White Lions in the wild (also known as “Starbeasts” or “Rainbow Lions”):

The Program is designed to encourage active participation, learning by discovery, questioning, critical thinking, problem solving, and edu-tainment and is aligned with the principles of the Revised National Curriculum Statement. The program also encourages learners to find a personal means of creative expression to interpret the cultural and conservation importance of White Lion, – be it through art, song, poetry, theatre or dance.

Learners are encouraged to use recyclable materials in performances, thereby encouraging further environmental awareness.. As a first step, representatives from the Global White Lion Protection Trust visit a school to give a bilingual (English and XiTsonga/Shangaan) presentation on the White Lions and the indigenous cultural values they represent to learner groups of typically 50 to 100 learners at a time. The learners are encouraged to form into groups of ten to fifteen individuals and to create a 20-minute celebratory White Lion event. Images of these paintings will be chosen and creatively compiled which the learners will then paint onto their chosen school wall as murals which will form a visitor attraction and “point of light” in the Eco-Cultural Tourism Map. They then compete for the best creative White Lion production and receive ‘conservation oriented’ awards for their efforts. These range from framed photographs of the White Lions and books on conservation, to a planned visit for the winning performers to the Tsau! White Lion Reintroduction Project in Hoedspruit. As multiple schools are targeted by the Program, the best performances are presented at a community ‘heritage event’ where an overall regional winning school is selected.

The WLT then collaborates with this group to give performances at surrounding tourist lodges and special events hosted by the WLT. Entire proceeds received during a ‘commercial event’ go to the school and educators, who decide in their discretion what percentage is offered to the White Lions in gratitude. In this way the cultural and conservation aspects of the Program work hand-in-hand to reward both the learners and the White Lions themselves.

Motivational Highlights:
Glossy book publication and Permanent Mural displays at Schools Chosen artwork from these creative workshops will be featured in a forthcoming White Lion Coffee-tableBook publication, based on the success of the first publication of compiled White Lion art and poetry works of celebration. At the end of the program, scholars will give creative expression on their new insights through the form of painting murals, creation of their own plays and other self-expression. As a follow-up to the 2009 partnership with the Maruleng Municipality, the centrepiece of this year’s events will be the painted murals in celebration of their White Lion cultural heritage in our “Little Stars of Light” project.

These murals will be revealed on 24 September 2011, on Heritage Day. It will form the centre piece of the day’s events, showcasing the learner’s festive expressions in celebration of their White Lion cultural heritage. The murals will form backdrops to traditional festivities and performances of plays written and performed by the scholars themselves as the outcome of the project. The White Lion Heritage Protection Route will be launched and opened to the public on this day, bringing visitors to see these schools, their murals and related activities. This years program will involve 8 low income schools, and 1 high income school. Over 7 000 scholars will benefit directly from this project.

Project Target Group:
Learners from Lower and Primary Schools between 4 years to 13 years of age, in the Bushbuckridge and Maruleng/Mopani District. Schools partaking in the “Little Stars of Light” project will become part of the White Lion Heritage Protection Route.


Participating schools:

  • Paulus Ngobeni School – Government School in Moletele/Mnisi, PDI/ Presedential Poverty Node
  • Kgwaditiba Primary School – Government School in Moletele, PDI/Presedential Poverty Node
  • Chayiwe Lower Primary School – Government School in Moletele, PDI/Presedential Poverty Node
  • Funjwa Lower Primary School – Government School in Moletele, PDI/Presedential Poverty Node
  • Ndabeni Higher Primary School – Government School in Moletele, PDI/Presedential Poverty Node
  • Daniye Primary School – Government School in Moletele, PDI/Presedential Poverty Node
  • White Lion School of Hope – Private School at The Oaks, PDI
  • Makgahlishe Primary School – Governmental School in Moletele, PDI/Presedential Poverty Node
  • Southern Cross Wildlife School – Private School in Hoedspruit for high income learners

*Note: The White Lion Trust has identified the participating schools based on their commitment to White Lion Conservation and promotion of cultural heritage.

*PDI: Previously Disadvantaged Individuals

Guests attending the revealing of the murals and launch of the White Lion Heritage Protection Route Advisory Council to the WLT: MP Adv. Hosi Pathekile Holomisa (President CONTRALESA), along with ceremonial figures, government representatives, and community leaders.

‘Little Stars of Light’ Performance Indicators

Objective 1: Health
How will we know that objective 1 has been achieved?
Health – physical , mental , emotional or ps ychological impact .
We have observed tangible psychological impacts on the learners participating in the White Lion Eco-Educational Schools Program. The participating schools are largely isolated and receive marginal external involvement from other development organizations. The WLT’s Schools Program is, therefore, particularly well received by educators and learners alike as a novel and highly enthusiastic form of learning application. At the outset, many learners are reserved, introverted, lacking confidence and motivation. These learners typically originate from humble economic circumstances, with some children below the age of ten years heading entire house-holds.

Objective 2: Educational impact
How will we know that objective 2 has been achieved?
Educational impact
The White Lion Eco-Educational Schools Program uses the central theme of the White Lion to create conservation awareness and to foster a renewed sense of purpose, self-esteem and leadership among learners. The symbol of the White Lion (or “Rainbow Lion”) provides the ideal teaching vehicle for broader concepts such as responsible civic participation, leadership through compassion, conservation oriented values and personal growth and self-confidence through purpose and ‘lion-hearted values’. Impacts to be achieved include:

Short Term –

  • Broad-based participation of a wide range of learners from rural schools in the region;
  • Development of creative self-expression among learners using the White Lion as a cultural symbol;
  • Wide-spread appreciation of conservation principles;
  • Fostering of leadership principles among learners, using the White Lion symbol of ‘leadership’ and ‘kinship’.

Medium to Long Term –

  • Cultural regeneration among the youth as they reconnect with their cultural heritage – as represented by the White Lion and its symbolic meaning in Shangaan knowledge systems;
  • Personal empowerment through creative expression and performance;
  • Wider appreciation for all levels of wildlife, cultural and environmental conservation;
  • The inclusion of conservation-oriented educational material derived from the White Lion Eco-Educational Schools Program in the curriculums of participating schools;
  • Stronger representation of community learners in the academic fields of conservation and environmental sustainability.

Objective 3: Social
How will we know that objective 3 has been achieved?

Social – impact on the communit y and relationships within communities
It is anticipated that learners will take a renewed interest in preserving and honouring their natural environment and cultivate a particular interest in wildlife conservation – and the conservation plight of the White Lions specifically. The WLT believes in the importance of conservation education in learners’ formative years so that due care for the environment develops as ‘second nature’ as learners mature into responsible adults. With a strong foundation in conservation and environmental preservation informative years, more of our future community leaders will take an academic interest in the fields of wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability, as well as applying principles of sustainable living to their everyday challenges.

Objective 4:
How will we know that objective 4 has been achieved?
Additional benefits include :

  • Greater knowledge and appreciation for conservation principles among learners in the region – specifically the conservation of White Lions. This is expressed, in the short term, through creative performances in the Schools Program and, in the long term, a greater interest to study and work in related conservation fields;
  • Tangible expressions of learner empowerment as expressed in other areas of academic or creative development – e.g. improved school attendance, improved grades, greater sociability and collaboration among learners in the school environment, better care in personal appearance and hygiene, evidence of alternative creative expressions (such as art or crafts) and evidence of leadership development in the classroom.(*Note: we have been advised of the positive outcomes by educators from participating schools);
  • Enhanced interest from parents and families who attend the performances in learners’ educational progress. This in turn promotes family cohesion and greater interest in the learners’ overall academic achievements. Ultimately enhanced parental interest helps to foster greater self-esteem, self-love and academic achievements in learners.

Contributing assets/resources/stakeholders

  • The Schools Program forms part of the WLT’s “Leadership Development” initiatives for youth participants. Funding will assist in establishing the basic infrastructure for ongoing schools engagement in future.
  • The WLT has an excellent support structure from the government (local national and parliamentary) affiliated Non-Profit/Public Benefit Organisations and the private sector.
  • We work in partnership with the US NPO, Seeds of Light to provide Boreholes and Organic Gardens to schools participating in our “Little Stars of Light “ program.
  • The WLT School’s Leadership Development works in close affiliation with Educational Psychologists and specialists in career development, such as Ms. Mae Naude (specialising with EQi, Team Emotional and Social Intelligence, Cognitive Processing and OPQ Accreditations).

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