Welcome Primary pupils learn to grow food

Showing some of the vegetables, from left, are Erica Petersen and Ricky Johnson from Skills4Life; teacher Shereen Jacobs; pupils Keeron Ngcwangu, Uthmaan Davids, Junaid Edwards, Carla van As and Amarah Desmore; and Melissa Johnson from Skills4Life.

Welcome Primary School and a non-profit organisation have started an environmental club that is teaching pupils how to care for the environment and grow their own food.

The Eco Warriors Club got off the ground last Thursday with 24 Grade 4s and 5s.

The school is working with Skills4Life Projects, an organisation that helps communities to become sustainable.

Teacher Shereen Jacobs, the club’s co-ordinator, said staff hoped the food garden could help those facing tough times because of the pandemic.

“We wanted to help our pupils, and in turn, they can help the community. Our school sent letters to the parents and asked for their help, whether in the form of their knowledge or other assistance. We extended it to recycling and environmental awareness. Skills4Life heard about it and they offered to help,” Ms Jacobs said.

Skills4Life founder Ricky Johnson said they hoped to bring agriculture back into schooling. He started growing his own food to provide for his family after his income took a knock during the pandemic.

“I received a packet of seeds as a bonus for a grocery purchase, and I nurtured it until it produced a harvest. This made me realise I had the ability to grow more vegetables. I then established a vegetable garden in my own backyard, and I have since developed into an urban farmer.

“I connected with other community farmers and now we have 40 vegetable gardens in the greater Athlone area. Our organisation also gave agricultural training and consultation to 12 schools to help them establish their food gardens.”

Ms Jacobs said both pupils and staff were learning from the project.

“Some of us have the knowledge and have green fingers, while the rest of us are learning with the pupils. We also have a few parents who offered to help in the garden,” she said.

Zachary Kestoor, a Grade 4 pupil said starting a food garden was easier than he had thought it would be.

“We learn about plants, how to grow vegetables, and what you must do with worms and snails. I didn’t think it was so easy to start a garden. I thought it was hard and that I was not able to do it, but now I find it very interesting.”

Milani Siyo, Grade 5, said: “When I am in the garden, I feel like I am in my own space. While I am busy in the garden, and knowing I am growing my own food, it brings me so much joy.”

Mr Johnson believes if everybody learns how to grow vegetables, there will be no need for anyone to queue for food at feeding schemes.

Welcome Primary School pupils remove weeds from the vegetable beds.