LIVING SCHOOL GARDENS PROJECT WITH BABIN DAYCARE AND PRE-SCHOOL AS SOCIETAL PARTNER
Babin Daycare and Pre-School was initially chosen for its logistical proximity to the Department of Genetics where the project coordinator, Mrs Thanja Allison, is employed. Furthermore Mrs Allison chose the societal partner having established a relationship with the facility more than 20 years ago when her own children attended the school. Her desire was to give something back to the school and help the school achieve a goal for curriculum enhancement, participation, skills development and increased wellness in all stakeholders.
The societal partner was intrigued by the offer of collaboration and since the relationship between the project coordinator and the principal and some of the core staff members of the facility was already established there was no delay in agreeing to an agreement and the terms of the involvement. It was very important to the project coordinator that the societal partner needed to have their needs met and as such be a positive stakeholder in the project. The societal partner consulted the parents of the children, the staff and the directors of the Stellenbosch Early Education Development Trust prior to agreeing to the project.
The initial internal participants in the initiative was the Department of Genetics, the Institute for Plant Biotechnology and the International Office. The roles of the internal participants are outlined below:
Department of Genetics: agreed to allow the project coordinator the time to manage the project according to the schedule and programme of the three campuses of Babin Daycare and Pre-School. The department also supported the project by encouraging staff and students to take part in secondary initiatives that resulted from the project. So, for example, staff and students of the department contributed through volunteer actions in special days, such as Mandela Day, International Day of Literacy, International Earth Day, International Youth Day. These initiatives were very well received by the societal partner and also served to introduce the staff and students to the societal partner's goals and objectives. These initiatives also enabled the department to engage new staff members and students in team building initiatives which served to engage and include them.
The Institute for Plant Biotechnology provided very valuable consultation in the initial phase of the project and ultimately decided to register a project under the leadership of a senior lecturer of the division to enhance the Living School Garden Project and provide it with a much more sustainable future prospect. Since 150 children need to be provided with a nutritious lunch on a daily basis it soon became apparent to the project coordinator that the project would not be able to make a substantial contribution to the basic food need, but with the added contribution of the project managed by the IPB, the projects could both thrive. Since the department of Genetics already acts as the academic home of the IPB the joint projects further served as a way to enhance the collaboration between the department and the IPB.
The International Office became involved after Mrs Allison was invited to address the new international students during Welcome Week on the volunteer opportunities in a charitable organisation of which she is an active member. After the meeting many students asked to become involved but logistically it was not so easy, but through her interaction and continued communication with the students a core group of students from Thailand, Norway and the Netherlands became involved as volunteers in the project. Since these students were already familiar with the demands of a social impact project and was flexible enough to participate fully in the initial stages of the project, the project could progress very fast. The students also came from different backgrounds, ranging from Engineering to Sociology majors and this added a very interesting dynamic to the project's secondary objectives of improved communication and integration. Even though these students were only here for a brief period of time the impact of the interaction continues and the project coordinator has already been asked to accept them as volunteers in further initiatives since they will be returning to South Africa in the not too distant future. In the second part of 2019 students from EARTH University in Costa Rica formed the core volunteer group, but since these students originally come from Uganda, Malawi and the DRC they brought other students from these countries to join as volunteers. After their departure the local students remain committed to the project and this is considered a unexpected but very welcome outcome.
Since the societal partner had to pre-arrange the schedule and activities it was very important to consult with them on the design of the project. The societal partner also provided three permanent members of their staff to be actively involved in the execution of the project. The project team worked very closely together and since language, educational, cultural and gender barriers had to be managed the outcome of the project vastly exceeded the initially anticipated objectives and goals.
The project contributed to the overall enhancement and expansion of the social impact portfolio in the departments that were involved, engaging students, staff and staff and students from other departments in the faculty and even other faculties in the actions. News articles were published on the project, radio interviews, blogs and general social media clips were shared even in the countries where the volunteers originated from. A well known artist from Malawi came to host a concert to the benefit of Babin Daycare and Pre-School and this was widely publicised.
The impact of the project on the students and academics involved were multi-faceted and the real benefit of the interaction will become more evident as the project is rolled out in 2020.
At the end of 2019 the management body of Babin Daycare and Pre-School approached the project coordinator with their intend to triple the project initiatives to allow for the three different schools to each have their own project and actively involve the children in the project activities.
Babin Daycare and Pre-School envisage that the children will develop a number of very important skills through their active involvement in the Living Garden Project. These skills include:
Nutrition – They learn the process of growing food with the necessary nutrients for health and survival.
Physical activity – gardening is a productive way of having fun.
They develop a love for nature – they learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place.
Responsibility – they learn to care for pants, nurture and nourish them. Children become more responsible and self-reliant when allowed to take on something as serious as food farming.
Cooperation – their work includes shared play activity and teamwork.
Reasoning and discovery – they learn about the intriguing science of plants, animals, weather, the environment, nutrition, and simple construction.
Creativity – They invent farming practices and might even come up with their own crop varieties.
Self-confidence – they achieve their goals and enjoy the food they have grown.
The project coordinator is confident that the resources to continue the project can be found through donors, collaborators, marketing events and fundraising initiatives. It is not envisaged that it would be possible to sell the produce of the garden as a means of fundraising but initial talks with the organisers of the Slow Food Market and other vendors have indicated a willingness to collaborate. As had been the case in the first year of the project the Ajubatus Foundation will continue to support the project financially and through indirect actions. After granting an interview to Cape Talk Radio the project coordinator was also approached by a number of individuals and companies who wish to collaborate, but due to the demand by the societal partner for the strict adherence to the safety of the children these offers of collaboration will have to be very carefully considered and discussed with all stakeholders. Since the major contribution made by the project team is their time, energy and commitment to serve, the resources needed to run the project successfully is not so much physical but emotional investment and time.
Alignment with SU themes
The initiative directly align with many of the international, national, African and provincial goals and SU themes:
- No poverty: by providing resources and training to ultimately provide nutritious meals
- Zero Hunger: by providing resources and training to provide substantial and balanced meals to help the children to thrive
- Good Health and Wellbeing: a commitment to enhancing the initial goals with knowledge transfer regarding cleanliness, an active lifestyle, good habits etc.
- Quality Education: by engaging each child in activities that take into consideration the age, developmental stage, language preference, any physical or emotional challenges the child might have.
- Gender Equality: by engaging all children, regardless of gender in the activities and interactions and helping the child develop as an individual but also to feel part of a group
- Clean water and sanitation: by insisting on healthy practices, eg washing hands after play and before eating
- Affordable and Clean Energy: the project makes use of renewable resources and recycled materials
- Decent Work and Economic Growth: a sense of pride in the contribution and a celebration of the participation of each person involved. Appreciation shown through direct and indirect means.
- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: improving the facilities and enhancing the effectivity of processes already established
- Reduced Inequalities: totally inclusive project
- Responsible Consumption and production: recycling, waste management and a commitment to working towards zero waste practices
- Climate Action: planting suitable crops and limiting the resources used from municipal supplies as far as possible
REPORT PREPARED BY THANJA ALLISON