- An unused sports field at a Cape Town school became an illegal dumping ground, which was filled with trash and attracted crime and drug activity.
- Now, the field has been cleared of more than 80 tons of waste and hosts a recycling centre.
- A new food garden at the school is also feeding an additional 100 pupils and instilling in pupils a sense of calm.
Pupils returning to Webnerstraat Primary School in Cravenby, Cape Town will be greeted by a vegetable garden and clean sports field, which was once littered with rubbish.
The field underwent a dramatic transformation over the past six months.
Due to a broken perimeter fence, which lay in a state of disrepair for years due to a lack of funding, the field was vulnerable to illegal dumping, gangsterism and drugs. Household waste, broken glass, old tyres, and used nappies was strewn across the grounds.
Drug use and dealing became common, as did robberies, mere metres from the classrooms. Fed-up residents petitioned to have a new fence installed, and the field's decline cast a shadow on the school.
"Unfortunately, we ended up in the media for the wrong reasons," said the school's acting principal, Vincent Aspeling.
Turning a new leaf
"But through that, the Department of Environmental Affairs came into the school and approached us and, in collaboration with the NCC [Environmental Services], they erected a new fence around the school and removed rubbish from the school field."
More than 80 tons of waste was removed, according to Ashley Damons, project manager of Ithemba Phakama 4Ps, a government-partnered "People Public Private Partnership" project.
Once cleared, a recycling centre, headquartered in a container, was set up on the field. Seeing the change at the school, the community was encouraged to deliver recyclable material to the school for processing. Similarly, pupils are taught about the value of recycling and are incentivised to deposit used plastic packets, glass bottles and other materials, which would usually end up in an already overburdened landfill.
"We are recycling with the kids. The kids are bringing recycling from home," Damons said.
"The school is part of a project where it's actually recycling chip packets [and] cooldrink bottles, and they're turning that into bricks."
Following the success of the field clearing and recycling programme, the project was expanded to include a food garden. In addition to helping harvest spinach, beetroot, cabbage, tomatoes and potatoes, pupils at the primary school are being fed with the produce grown in the garden, supplementing the school feeding scheme shortfall.
"The school used to feed 250 learners [and] now, with the help of the garden, the school feeds 350 learners," said Damons.
"We didn't choose the vegetables ourselves, we went to the kitchen staff and asked them what would help the kitchen. It's all things that they use every day, so this helps the school, and it helps the kids."
Not only are the nutritional benefits of the food garden making a positive impact on the school and its pupils, according to Damons. The progress made in clearing the sports field has also instilled a newfound sense of pride and calm within the pupils.
"Ever since we started the garden and we've gotten the kids involved, it's changed them a lot… they are much calmer, and they have more respect for what's been happening here at the school," Damons said.