Newspaper clipping – The Star – 6 July 2009

Wheeling and greening!

Ithembelihle Lsen School, a primary school for disabled children, has found a novel way of creating a garden that will enable its pupils to work on it themselves.

Teachers at the school say the development of the garden has done wonders for the pupil’s physical and academic development.
Instead of the conventional garden grown at ground level, Ithembelihle’s garden patches are raised and bordered with tractor tyres. This, explained Thomas Rafedile, the school’s environment co-ordinator and geography teacher, is to allow the children who are on wheelchairs to tend to the garden.
“The major reason we grow this garden is to feed the children,” he said. He said because the children are disabled, the school has to make sure that they follow a healthy diet.

The garden is also part of the children’s curriculum, where with subjects like natural sciences, the pupils can gain first-hand knowledge of plants and insects.
“Working on the garden is also therapeutic for the children – it allows those with muscle challenges to gently exercise their muscles,” said one of the grade R teachers.

Rafedile said the tyre garden – established last November – is also used by uneducable children whose curriculum mainly consists of practical subjects like needlework, pottery and painting.

Thapelo Kgoale, a grade seven pupil at the school, said he loved working in the garden.
“I enjoy it; the plants that we water give us nutrition. Also, the tyres keep them (the plants) safe from the rats,” said Kgoale.

He said working on the garden during the “special classes” had taught him how to maintain the plants.

Rafedile said, with the help of staff, the pupils developed the garden’s greens from seeds to making fertilizers. As a watering system, the school pours water into plastic bottles with holes that are placed in the middle of the circular patches.

Carmen Nottingham, from Aid Army, the NGO that assisted the school to develop the garden, said this method of irrigation saved 80 percent of water. Nottingham said when they worked on such projects they held practical workshops to show how to establish and maintain the garden.
“I find it better if I go there and establish the garden and answer questions. We do workshops and give practical instruction on how to set up a garden. We do seeding, show how to make compost and how to do the planting and harvesting,” she said.

Nottingham said her organization focused on showing others how to develop the gardens instead of doing everything themselves. She added that her wish is for corporate organizations to adopt a school and introduce similar projects in other disadvantaged schools.