South Africa – Part 2: The Effects of the Pandemic and the Journey towards a School Based Garden

The schooling system in South Africa is severely disrupted by the pandemic with classes schedule carefully planned out by teachers. Both parents and children sort solace in teachers, for emotional and moral support, for food, and for guidance. Their efforts were compounded by a lack of resources as they went on to take on the responsibility of checking students temperatures, managing social distancing during lunch breaks, and cleaning and disinfecting any and all surfaces. 

Team R “Concept Creators” uncover how to better support teachers during the COVID-19 crisis, and like red flags, the team saw a link between the problems highlighted in literature, in the local media, and those brought up in the primary data collection. The idea was neither rocket-science nor was it a reinvention of the wheel. The dedicated team conducted around 10 interviews, which lead to a minefield of data.

They pieced together the missing link, that is, a key community messenger, the most networked, those who saw everything and knew the most within any given community, the one with the most ‘on the ground’ insight and influence – the teachers in the schools.

To ensure that the concept would have the greatest impact they considered the multiplicative and replicative impacts of this kind of program. The “Concept Creators” believed the idea had potential for positive ripple effects throughout a community. 

The concept of a school-based garden managed by schoolchildren was taken to a completely new level. The idea is to leverage the unused space in schools, and where not possible, use vertical farming, and develop a partnership with unemployed parents to participate in the project. The project envisioned that the vegetables would be grown and sold by the children, some part used to feed them in school, and the money made in sales could be used to maintain the school infrastructure. The approach promoted the feeling of dignity, purpose, self-pride as well a sense of self-efficacy and responsibility from a young age. Children would be part of a program that incentivizes their participation, and that teaches financial literacy, a module which is currently absent in the syllabus but a much-needed learning in everyday life. The participation of parents would allow them to learn how to grow their own products to put food on the table or for selling to their neighborhood allowing them to generate income too. The solution focuses on microgreens as this is the fastest, and cheapest way to get nutritional food into the bellies of many children.

The initiative also harnesses the benefits of garden therapy and its positive effects on both the body and mind. Research has proven that a regular dose of gardening improves, amongst others, attention, cognitive functioning, dexterity, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress and anxiety.

Overall, the intention is to provide teachers to effective and practical support to aid children’s learning, and help them support their families one by one across the community at large. 

The team shared their thoughts on the unique experience of Impact Week journey and their reaction to hearing the news that we took the win:

[I was] terrified at first, however I eased into it…It was time to unlearn the old and welcome the new learnings in order to have a profound impact on myself and the lives that I will be honored to touch as I moved through this incredible journey. Once the announcement was made I screamed with euphoria and nothing could stop my celebration! I feel grateful and blessed to be part of this team!” mentioned Sooraya Ebrahim one of the mentors.

“Impact Week was rather a mixture of emotions… my participation and engagement has left me with knowledge and skills that I can use going forward, not just in my professional life, but also personal life” acknowledged Phumudzo Nengwani, one of the participants of the project.

The South African democracy was founded on Ubuntu, a Zulu word that is often translated to “I am, because you are”. The core values consist of respect, dignity, acceptance, sharing, co-responsibility, humaneness, social justice, fairness, morality, group solidarity, and compassion. Congratulations to the team for the beautiful project and we wish you a lot of success for the implementation!