It’s more than a tree, it’s a sign

Written by Paul Polta

Photo: Louisa Feiter

Earlier this year SCOUTS South Africa ran a tree planting project in partnership with the Scouting in Schools (SiS) team, Nangu Thina and Arboreta Nurseries. 150 indigenous trees were planted in 30 no-fee paying schools around the Cape Town Metro area together with Cubs, Scouts and 20 SiS intern Scout leaders.

For many of the Scouts it was the first time they ever planted a tree. “I feel important”, was the comment of a young learner. “It’s amazing to know that somebody else shows interest in us and cares about us.“ For many of the learners who attend the schools situated in disadvantaged communities, it was not only a little tree that they were presented with, it was a big gesture.

“I feel important”

Siyabulela Primary

All of the trees planted were indigenous and varied between Cape Ash to White Ironwood. Providing the learners with local trees gave them a better understanding of indigenous species in their direct surroundings. The trees also provide science teachers with a practical teaching resource for topics such as the environment, wildlife and photosynthesis. “This was a unique experience for both our learners and ourselves as educators”, says Mr Peter from Siyabulela Primary School. “I feel happy and honoured. The donation of the trees enabled our learners to realise the importance of conserving nature and that they need to cherish it.”

Understanding why trees benefit their community, how to care for them and how to use grey water to support their growth are just a few of the components of the programme that was run within the schools. The addition of using grey water is particularly relevant in the Western Cape that is experiencing water restrictions due to the recent drought and ongoing water shortages. “I’m very thankful. The Scouts planted the trees and will continue to take care of it.” says Jacqueline de Ronde, educator at Hazendal Primary.

Photo: Louisa Feiter

“It was the first time I planted a tree and I liked it because it was a new experience for me”, says Sakhi-Khaya Baliso, the intern Scout Leader at Thembani Primary School in Langa. “We have about 75 Cubs and Scouts in our School Scout programme. It was nice to work with the kids who had also never planted a tree in their lives!” The amount of energy and joy the learners put into the work was visible! The project also taught them a number of practical leadership and team work skills and well as the value of taking responsibility for projects and their own actions. The WC SiS programme currently supports over 1200 children and is run in partnership with the Western Cape Government and the Game Changer initiative.

By working together and planting trees in disadvantaged community schools we were able to improve the aesthetics of the school, making them a more attractive place to learn. Once taller, the trees will also provide shaded areas which can become outdoor learning spaces and a spot for children to enjoy outside of the hot sun. It has also been said that trees improve air quality and their presence is known to lower stress levels.

The children will now have the thrill of watching their creation grow. And while doing so, they will know that their tree is more than just a tree, it’s a sign.

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