Tembaletu: Using plays to teach

2010-06-11 00:00

THE Tembaletu Trust has been using Lottery funding to get an eco- friendly message out to pupils in the greater Pietermaritzburg area.

As part of the three-year project, which ends in 2011, the organisation has produced the first in a series of environmental edutainment plays, Green Elephant, which aims to encourage children to care for the environment and to realise that thoughtless acts, such as throwing litter on the ground, can have long-term effects.

The play, which was scripted by Morwenna Bosch, tells the story of Umfolozi, an elephant that grows up in a circus. When his mother tells him of a paradise full of green grass, he runs away. But instead of finding paradise, he finds urban sprawl and a place without grass or flowers.

Then Umfolozi makes friends with a bee called Buzzy, who has also been feeling the effects of environmental destruction, and Sizwe, a malnourished and unhappy little boy. Sizwe’s mum is ill and can’t take care of him, and he is ridiculed by everyone in his village.

But Sizwe has a secret — he knows of a green patch next to a river and takes his new friends to see it.

Together, the friends create the paradise that Umfolozi has been searching for. Then the villagers notice that Sizwe’s mum is looking better and when they ask her why that is, she explains that it is thanks to the good food that she is getting from Sizwe’s garden of hope.

Trust spokesperson, Kay Bhagwandhin, said the message inherent in the play is that if you care for the environment you not only get a place which is “aesthetically pleasing to look at but also a garden where you can grow wonderful food”.

Green Elephant has been staged at schools in and around Pietermaritzburg by six performers, who work in teams of three.

“The feedback has been very encouraging,” Bhagwandhin said. “The teachers have told us that it is something which children can relate to. It’s very educational and informative. Some teachers said they were already doing environmental work and the play added to that, while others said that, having seen the play, they plan to incorporate environmental awareness into their lessons.

“The pupils we spoke to were also positive. They said they felt they had learnt something, without feeling like they were learning, and plan to incorporate caring for the environment into their own lives.”

Some 3 000 primary school pupils in Imbali, Edendale, Richmond, Wartburg, Cramond and Elandskop, have been reached in the first phase of the project, and Tembaletu is now working on the second phase, a play which will tackle the issue of clean water and air.

In addition to the plays, the trust is working on creating a DVD using stop motion animation, which they will make available to schools to purchase and carry the message forward.

For more information, phone Kay Bhagwandhin at 033 394 7807.

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