Power in Planting: Agnes and Ishmael’s Stories
Rainbow High School and Repholositswe Secondary School serve students in two impoverished rural communities in Free State, South Africa. Both areas are plagued by violence, and students have few opportunities for extracurricular activities. INMED’s South African Adaptive Agriculture Program worked with both schools to create school gardens, providing a productive outlet for youth after school, as well as nutritious food for school meals.
The students’ response exceeded expectations. According to Agnes Moletsane, Repholositswe’s environmental education teacher, the children are very enthusiastic about the project.
“We have 90 students in our environmental group,” she said, “and they keep on asking us when we will start the garden, and they are so interested to learn how to do different things. They will be so excited about helping set this garden up and maybe they can even make their own gardens like this at home.”
Teachers in both schools emphasize the importance of the environmental club, advocating their gardens as an alternative to the gang activity so prevalent in their communities. Mrs. Moletsane notes that the club helps to keep students busy after school. In addition, she proudly reports that some club members who used to be part of gangs have now assumed leadership roles.
“Since we started working with INMED a lot of children have benefited, especially in changing their behavior and mindset as well as learning new skills.”
Ishmael Serame, the leader of Rainbow’s environmental club, shared his perspective on the garden’s power of offering an alternative to gangs.
“This year,” Ishmael said, “one well-known gang member in Grade 11 was invited by a friend to come and help at the vegetable garden. After he saw what others were doing after school hours, he asked if he could also join the club. And when asked why he wanted to join, he simply said that he realized that there are more positive things to learn after school than just going home and hanging around with the gang members causing problems in the community.”
The success of this program has given students and teachers a sense of pride and satisfaction, leading to noticeable improvements in each community.
“Since we started working with INMED a lot of children have benefited,” Mr. Serame explained, “especially in changing their behavior and mindset as well as learning new skills.”
Mrs. Moletsane and Mr. Serame both report that their students are applying what they learn by developing their own gardens at home. In addition, Mr. Serame said that his students have already indicated their interest in studying agriculture when they complete high school, showing just how impactful the INMED program has been.