Mdluli High School and Frank Maghinyama High School have been chosen by the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve as the two schools that have best put into practise the environmental teaching that they were exposed to through the Timbavati Bush School's outreach programme.
Every year eight pupils from Grade 11 are chosen by the teachers of 24 rural high schools in the area around the Timbavati to attend the bush school, where they learn about wildlife and conservation. They are also taught about recycling and eco-friendly permaculture gardens.
Water-wise permaculture gardens involve digging deep planting beds and filling them with a decomposer material before returning the dug-up soil and sowing seeds. Different plants are intercropped to help keep down pests, and a cloth barrier shields the plants from the drying effects of the wind.
Two-litre bottles with small holes for drip irrigation are planted in the soil amongst the plants, significantly reducing the amount of water necessary to grow the vegetables. One year after the pupils visit the bush school, a team from the Timbavati visits all the schools to see if the teenagers have been putting into effect the lessons they learnt at the bush school.
One of main judges is Giyani Sibuyi, one of the Timbavati's field rangers who has been helping with the bush school programme since its inception. This year the Frank Maghinyama High School was one of the winners because of the amazing transformation they have made to the school grounds.
As well as nurturing a permaculture garden, the pupils have made good use of thousands of empty beer bottles, creating glittering green borders around a series of new flowerbeds at the entrance to the school. Under the watchful eye of the principal, T C Khoza, and coordinator Given Nziyana the students created a permaculture garden that grows beetroot, spinach, onion, green peppers, lettuce and peri-peri.
The produce from the garden goes to help learners at the school who have been orphaned. At the other winning school, Mdluli High School, the pupils not only started a permaculture garden alongside their regular garden, but they also created a wide variety of impressive craft objects from recycled waste.
According to coordinating teacher Queen Ndlovu, many of the children who attend the school are poor Mozambican refugees, and sourcing the old mealie meal bags to shield their garden and the empty cold drink bottles was a surprisingly difficult task.
Unfortunately, just as their garden was flourishing the school's borehole broke down, and headmaster Lawrence Mthethwa said that the funds necessary to repair it have not yet arrived. The Timbavati Bush School will soon choose the two best pupils from amongst all of those schools that took part in the outreach activities. The Timbavati will help fund these students to a further education course of a conservation-related nature.