10 July 2020

A Well (G)rounded School

Vele permaculture garden

Vele permaculture garden

The Creating Schools Programme adopts a holistic approach to education, focusing not only on the development of the learners in the schools, but also on the advancement of the community as a whole. The food garden at Vele Secondary School is a great example of how a school can form the nucleus of a community, bringing residents together, and helping to educate and sustain both the leaners, and the community as a whole.

David Ramabulana is one of three community members who were originally selected to care for the permaculture food garden at Vele. David’s story and his devotion to the school garden, and to the process of permaculture gardening, is truly inspiring!

Due to unfortunate circumstances David had to drop out of a degree in Applied Mathematics in his third year, and was tending to the garden when he came to the attention of one of the trustees. He was asked to join the school’s staff as a computer administrator, and very soon became an expert in hardware and software, using Cami and Autograph to teach the learners Maths. David now assists the Maths Teacher, and holds lessons in the afternoon and before school. The Creating Schools Trust have offered him a bursary to complete his degree, and it has been agreed that David will train local unemployed villagers, who have an interest and an aptitude for computers, so that there will be somebody to carry on with his good work once he’s gone.

Despite a return to the classroom, David has maintained his interest in the permaculture garden. Below are some of the highlights from a recent report that David wrote on the garden:

The beauty of the food garden at Vele Secondary School is that it’s surrounded by Comfrey, which acts as mulch and provides nitrogen and magnesium to other crops. You can use comfrey to help mend broken bones.Vetiver acts as a windbreaker, helps to prevent flooding in the garden by creating a barrier and can also be used as mulch. Vele food garden produces beetroot, carrots, mustard, spinach, cabbage, onion, butternut, muxe (for Venda people), chillies and brinjal, amongst other things. The crops act as a test, and we continue to produce the crops which teachers, learners and the community like the most, and which grow the best. During the harvest we keep the seeds to avoid having to buy more seeds. We sell the crops to everyone who needs it. The cost starts at 50 cents and goes up to R1.50 for the root family (carrot, beetroot, garlic), and R10 for the leaf/cabbage family (spinach, muxe, cabbage, kale, mustard). The school also feeds the learners with the vegetables from the garden. We recently attended a workshop in the Mutale district on Sustainable Food Production. I told them what I knew about permaculture because they rely on chemical pest control and chemical manure. At Vele we use organic pest control and feed crops with compost or earthworm tea. We use the the money that we make from the food garden to buy seeds that we don’t already have, to pay for transport if there’s a meeting far away, and to buy gardening equipment and petrol for the lawnmower which we use to create mulch. We have formed a committee to look after the food garden, and are now ready to enter any competitions about gardening

Viva Vele Secondary School food garden! Viva!

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