School’s poor road a plus as hungry pupils learn to grow their own food

‘Oom’ Georgie Botha with some of the Johan Hus Primary School pupils hard at work in the school’s vegetable garden, which feeds about 200 pupils daily
‘Oom’ Georgie Botha with some of the Johan Hus Primary School pupils hard at work in the school’s vegetable garden, which feeds about 200 pupils daily
Image: Supplied

While the views for the pupils of Johan Hus Primary School might be fetching, the roads leading to the school are not – and the pupils have helped take up the responsibility of supplementing some of their own daily needs.

The small school is situated at the foot of the picturesque Tsitsikamma Mountains in Humansdorp.

Here pupils not only learn about the environment in a hands-on manner, the crops they grow are also used in the school kitchen to feed them.

“Oom” Georgie Botha, 60, who has been the caretaker at the school for 10 years, has been gardening since he was eight years old and he keeps the school garden going, with help from the pupils and some of the teachers.

About 200 children from grades R to 7 attend the school and, according to Botha, they always look forward to helping in the garden.

“The teachers do natural studies classes to teach the children about the environment.

“At the same time, they work with me in the garden and I teach them about the crops, and how to take care of the plants,” Botha said.

While he is a knowledgeable gardener, he says the crops need regular watering and he would like to expand the garden to potentially sell some of the extra crops.

In an attempt to aid the cause, the Shoprite Group stepped in to provide proper water infrastructure for the garden that includes a borehole, a pump, piping and a 5,000-litre water tank.

Its implementation partner, Food and Trees for Africa, also provided training, compost and vegetable seedlings that include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions and beans to add to the existing crops of beetroot, carrots, spinach and leeks.

“I didn’t know about permaculture so the training has been very good for us because they’re teaching us new ways to plant and that’s going to help us expand our small garden and make it sustainable,” Botha said.

“I always look forward to the training because I teach the children everything I learn. We’re all learning these new skills together.”

Botha said the garden was started several years ago, due to the issue of accessing the school to drop off supplies.

The Shoprite Group fights hunger by supporting food gardens in communities throughout SA for a minimum of 18 months.

Each garden partners with one of the group’s supermarkets closest to it – in this case Usave Thornham in nearby Nompumelelo.

Thembisa Ntoni, branch manager of Usave Thornham, said: “As retailers we care about the communities we serve and our partnership with Johan Hus Primary is another way in which we play our part to ensure that people have access to a regular supply of fresh, nutritious vegetables.

“In addition, the next generation learn to grow their own food, making sure that food security in the community is not a problem going forward.”