To us, environmental education broadly signifies raising awareness of and improving the physical, social and personal context of people’s lives.

Our goals for environmental education include:

Learners and educators have an increased knowledge of environment and implement learner-centred research and action in schools.

Educators integrate environment and health education into the curriculum.

School communities enhance the concept of healthy/loved schools.

Youth empower youth through formal and non-formal workshops.

Since 1984 we’ve been implementing projects that require regular visits to many disadvantaged schools in the rural and peri-urban regions of KwaZulu-Natal. While the positive impact our language education was having in these schools was evident, we became more and more conscious that in many of these schools, health, environmental, aesthetic and cultural aspects were glaringly neglected.

In appearance, many of the schools gave the impression that they were “unloved”.

Many of the schools were critically under-resourced, shabby, tree-less and poorly landscaped. Toilets were not maintained and were unsanitary, and school grounds were often covered with rubble and litter. 

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Indigenous Tree Planting in Schools Project: 

In 1997, the Sugar Industry Trust Fund for Education (SITFE) funded a project focused on planting indigenous trees in 48 schools and neighbouring community facilities such as churches and clinics, in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, south coast and Ndwedwe areas. Workshops supported educators in implementing the curriculum through the integration of work in various learning areas, and in developing in their learners an environmental awareness and an appreciation for indigenous trees.

In three years, 5 500 trees were planted and 25 schools successfully established viable and sustainable vegetable gardens, supplementing their feeding scheme and generating income through the sale of excess produce. Limited employment was also provided to parents and caregivers who could not afford school fees.

In 2002, the Royal Netherlands Embassy (RNE) extended it’s funding of the Siyathuthuka Initiative to address environment, health and aesthetic issues in schools and we initiated a health and environment programme in 26 schools in the Vryheid region of KwaZulu-Natal. Schools were given gardening tools, indigenous trees, and a set of appropriate learner and educator materials.

The project encouraged schools to develop health and environment policies and to practically work towards turning their unkept, “unloved” schools into aesthetically-pleasing, “loved” schools. 

Community-Serving Schools Project: 

In 2003, supported by funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), we re-developed our Indigenous Tree Planting in Schools Project to focus on the transformation of schools into institutions that, by using and making available all their resources, identify with and serve the neighbouring communities. Eight schools in the Ugu District Municipality of KwaZulu-Natal were selected to participate in this pilot project.

In addition to community members, school staff, learners and members of the school governing bodies, the following supported us as implementing partners: Department of Education; Department of Water Affairs and Forestry; Department of Agriculture and Tourism; Sappi; and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA).

Project activities included: the planting of indigenous trees and shrubs and the eradication of alien invasive plants; establishing plant nurseries, built and maintained by community members themselves; setting up a garden tool “bank” at each school for community members to access; and establishing a muthi nursery alongside each vegetable nursery. 

INK Greening Project: 

Drawing on the successes, challenges and lessons learnt from the Community-Serving Schools pilot project, we designed and began implementing the INK Greening Project in 2004 in partnership with the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), the eThekwini Municipality (INK Area Based Management and Urban Renewal Programme) and the Department of Environmental Affairs. The two main objectives of the project were: to “green” school yards, neighbouring homes and public area in Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu; and to promote social and economic development and upliftment of communities adjoining the schools.

By working with 60 schools over a two-and-a-half year period, the project encouraged, facilitated and supported the eradication of alien invasive plants; the propagation, supply, planting and care of vegetables, indigenous trees and muthi plants; the establishment and care of school and community kitchen gardens; and the establishment of eco-clubs in schools. The project also provided full-time employment for 180 workers. 

ABSA Food Gardens Project: 

Focusing on child-headed households, the Food Gardens Project was developed and implemented to support the Department of Social Welfare’s efforts to provide food to individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS. Three feeding schemes, located in the Amajuba District Municipality, were identified for support. All three are run by local community volunteers who cook the food, deliver it to households, and provide home care to beneficiaries.

Project aims included: to establish a vegetable garden at each of the three sites to provide fresh vegetables to the feeding schemes; to plant fruit trees to provide fruit to supplement the vegetable supply; to supply vegetable seedlings for sale to the local community; and to provide on-going on-site support and training in basic agriculture to volunteer gardeners. 

Engen Wentworth Hospital Garden Project: 

Initiated by Wentworth Hospital and funded by Engen, we support this project by providing all the services necessary for the establishment and maintenance of the vegetable garden, and training of the volunteer gardeners. The food garden and wheelchair-friendly nursery, established on a vacant piece of land adjacent to the hospital, provides food security as well as recreational and occupational therapy for patients.

Jica School Vegetable Garden Project:

Yet another of our initiatives to alleviate poverty through food security, this school garden project targets 7 200 Grade 5-7 learners, 60 educators and 20 principals in 20 primary schools in the Ndwedwe region of KwaZulu-Natal. Our school vegetable garden projects incorporate many of the elements of the Community-Serving Schools Project and INK Greening Project including the eradication of alien invasive plants; the propagation, supply, planting and care of vegetables and indigenous trees; and the establishment of eco-clubs.

Msinga Project: 

The purpose of this project is to ensure food security for unemployed parents of learners at the school, to contribute to the schools feeding scheme, and to help rehabilitate the environment. Training on various aspects of basic agriculture production skills and how to establish a vegetable garden was conducted to develop the community. Charles Sarjoo, ELET Trustee, donated the services of his building foreman to build a plant nursery for the provision of plant propagation and training facilities. The Msinga Project is unique in terms of its funding. All our other projects are funded either through grants from corporates, education foundations or through funds from government-sponsored initiatives. This project was funded in its entirety by a private individual, Pearl Kloberie who, while travelling through the area, was struck by the poverty conditions. She was moved to do something to help improve the quality of life in the area and approached us to assist in establishing a food garden to promote healthy nutrition. 

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Phone: +2731 261 3177
Email: elet@elet.org.za