Ned Doman High School is teaching the community a lesson about water conservation and food security without saying a word.
This is how principal Gwynne Philander described their efforts, which not only got the pupils and staff excited, but also sparked the community’s interest.
Just before the winter rain, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture donated two water tanks to the school – they could not have come at a better time.
Caretaker Lawrence Matji organised the tanks and even made his own fittings for them. Mr Matji is passionate about water conservation and gardening, and during the winter rain, he saved 20 000 litres of water.
When each 5 000-litre tank was full, he emptied it into grape-harvesting boxes he had lined with plastic.
“I’m very water conscious. It’s like second nature to me. I also loved to garden from a very young age. I used to look after our garden at home as a boy.
“We are using the water that we saved for our vegetable garden, and, by doing that, we are also saving on the school’s water bill,” Mr Matji said.
He was a volunteer at the school, before being appointed as one of the estate staff. The school grows a variety of vegetables, including: mustard spinach, kale, turnips, beetroot and cabbage.
Mr Matji encouraged everybody to save water and collect rain for their gardens. “You can use any container to catch rain water; it does not have to be a tank. I’m inspired by scriptures such as Isaiah 55 verse 10, which says: ‘The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.’ Also 1 Corinthians 3 from verse six to nine, which states: ‘I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants, nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.’ These scriptures keep me going,” Mr Matji said.
The 20 000 litres of water can be used in the garden until early next year, he added.
Mr Philander shares Mr Matji’s excitement about the food garden and water saving initiatives.
“Mr Matji has gone beyond the call of duty. Apart from the water tanks, we also have a borehole at the school. We are also grateful for the efforts of Jeremy Martin, who is also one of our estate staff, who studied agriculture. He showed us the correct use of soil, and we are proud that he also spearheads similar projects in Hanover Park.
“We will be using the vegetables and herbs from the garden to supplement our hospitality studies, as food is expensive to buy. The more projects we undertake in the garden, the more our pupils can cook. Hopefully, we will be able to do more over time. Also, it’s not just the children being educated; our staff, and the community have also learnt so much from this. Education is for everybody. The school has demonstrated how easy it is to grow a food garden, and I wish we had access to more space. It is quite significant how many people came to ask questions – and that is what we wanted – visually teaching a lesson without saying a word,” Mr Philander said.