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Environmental Education in Botanic Gardens Training Course, Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden, South Africa

Number 16 - July 1998

M. Cupido & B. Graham

Why Have an Administrator?

Depending on the size of your educational programme, you may or may not have a dedicated administrator.Your situation will determine the extent of the administrative role. Being without an administrator limits the potential of your education programme. It is good company manners to have a contact person who is always available and a welcoming face to receive groups as they arrive.The administrator should be a professional with specific training in and knowledge of information processing systems and procedures.

In a busy programme it is extremely difficult for the education officer to both educate learners and administer their visits.You’ll have to keep on smiling while you answer all their questions, give information on the phone, send out information, organise helpers and worksheets, plan the visit, take learners around the gardens and evaluate the lesson, and answer the phone at all times.This is a job for a super-human!

You can’t be in two places at the same time. It is not only stressful but also un-professional to have the reception area unattended.You can get an answering machine with a recording giving details about the programme and on which people can leave messages, but some people are reluctant to do so.

The Job of an Administrator

  • reception - personal and telephone
  • course bookings and associated correspondence
  • school visit rosters and schedules
  • course and workshop registrations
  • centre management, maintenance, cleaning, provisioning, health and safety
  • record keeping – databases, addresses, statistics
  • filing
  • financial administration
  • correspondence
  • typing and help with resource materials development
  • catering 

Requests for Information

People often request information about your programme, it is best to have a flyer and standard letter that gives all the information required. Keep this information updated – e.g. if the gate fees increase


Set up a clear, logical filing system and file documents regularly so that you and other staff can access information readily. File regularly – not only for peace of mind but also to maintain the neatness of the reception areas. Avoid the temptation of thinking you can save on money by skimping on filing systems- you will waste more time spent looking for lost documents.

Record Keeping

In order to report accurately on what you did during the year, keep statistics of each group that visits the garden.Then, when you need to reflect on what you did it will be easy for you to access those records at a glance. If you will want to report on different categories of visitor (e.g. pupils, teacher, sponsored groups) set up your system in advance to record these details.

Planning Ahead

It is helpful to prepare a year planner so that when the new year starts you know exactly when school starts and term ends and when special events and commemorative days are.This will enable you to schedule your work and avoid having too many deadlines on top of one another.

Financial Administration

Find out all you need to know about administering your budget. Work out a simple system to keep a running record of your income and expenditure so that you know  what you have spent at any time. Develop a system for receiving and banking course fees and issuing receipts and for ensuring efficient payment of accounts. Get a rubber stamp made for your programme so that you can customise receipts, orders and envelopes. You may rely on sponsors for running costs or special projects.  If so, keep good records of funding proposals sent, donations received and correspondence so that you can be sure to acknowledge and administer donations effectively.

Whether or not you have administrative help, you cannot afford for valuable education time to be taken up with unnecessary administration.With a little organisation you can streamline tasks so that they take a fraction of the time they would if you were disorganised.

Tips and Tricks of Good Organisation

  • keep address lists of schools and suppliers handy
  • do daily filing  and develop a good system
  • record dates when you send information to people
  • keep everything you need daily close at hand
  • have a year planner to do forward planning
  • record phone calls immediately and give messages in good time
  • record phone numbers in a book, not on a piece of paper
  • respond to letters and queries in good time
  • develop and organise a monthly booking schedule to relevant people in the organisation to keep others informed of activities in your section.