Parents on patrol at Protea Primary

From left, are Anwar Jacobs, who painted the murals; Gavin Fredericks, who started an indigenous garden; and Richard Hess, 17, who helps to care for the garden.

Parents of pupils at a Bonteheuwel primary school have taken it upon themselves to protect and beautify the area around it.

The parents say they were inspired by the efforts of Protea Primary School’s principal Ruchien Kühn, who was appointed in June.

Mr Kühn said picking up litter and sweeping in front of the school had been part of his daily routine until a group of parents had offered to do it themselves.

More residents joined in and soon the around the school was transformed.

Gavin Fredericks, one of the parents, said illegal dumping had plagued a nearby piece of land. An indigenous garden grows there now.

“People even dumped old mattresses here,” Mr Fredericks said. “I took a few young people under my wing, and we started cleaning up. There was also long grass that we cut, and then the people in the road helped us by donating plants. Soon it became a community initiative.”

He and other parents patrol the school after hours to deter burglaries.

Mr Fredericks, who is unemployed, said poverty and other social ills were rife in the community but beautifying the area around the school had given people something to feel good about.

“When people enter our street, it’s like a grand entrance. Our spirits have all lifted since our environment started looking good.”

Anwar Jacobs painted the murals that now adorn once-drab walls.

“I have always enjoyed doing art, since I was a little boy who schooled at Protea Primary,” said Mr Jacobs. “I have no formal training in art, though, but I am proud that I am now even able to teach some of the children here about painting.”

Resident Gafsa Petersen, 61, can be found relaxing in the garden after watering it and tending to the plants.

Mr Kühn thanked the community for the efforts.

“There was beautiful paving outside the school, and some of it was stolen. Since Mr Fredericks and the rest of the parents came on board, no thefts have occurred,” he said.

“This initiative has huge spin-offs: it is instilling pride, beautifying the area and the community has taken ownership of the school. I am so proud of our school. My only concern is that people are hungry, and it would be nice if there is some incentive for the parents. I appreciate our parents so much.”

Gafsa Petersen, 61, relaxes in the garden after watering it.