The Canada Tree

©© Derek van der Merwe

A visitor to Tloukolobe Primary School in Ga-Maredi Village, Ga-Mmamabolo, may be confused to see a Trichilia emetica (natal mahogany) tree at the entrance of the school bearing the label 'Canada'.

The choice of this indigenous tree is obvious for its dense evergreen canopy and deep green colour. When the capsules pop open the bright red seeds with a single black eye are a delight. The name the tree has been given is not so obvious and hopefully in years to come children will remember what the planting of the tree signified.

The story began when educators from the school heard about the Wessa/WWF Eco-School programme from David Letsoalo, a well known bird guide in the area, and how it had benefited rural, township and urban schools to integrate environment into lesson planning, helped to structure action projects and to manage resources wisely.

Educators realised that their school could benefit. On registration the school identified the various environmental problems at their school such as trees had been removed for fire wood, littering was rife, the soil was highly leached and infertile and the food garden was not fenced and was consumed by goats.

The school also realised that they were on the environmentally friendly track as they are harvesting rainwater and are not entirely reliant on piped water. David has been helping this school to fulfil the requirements of becoming an Eco-School with funding from The Green Trust (a partnership between WWF and Nedbank). Their Eco-Report will be assessed in November by an independent panel who will decide whether their environmental footprint has been reduced.

When David heard that he had been chosen to represent southern Africa on the Rotary International Professional Exchange Programme in May to June 2008 he decided to offset the carbon emissions that will be generated by flying to Canada and the USA by including the schools that he has worked with. Thirty trees were purchased and planted in five schools and at each school David had the chance to share his excitement with the youth from his own province of Limpopo.

As the Canada tree grows the learners of these five Eco-Schools will remember that one of their own took wings and soared beyond the everyday humdrum and will be encouraged to make their own dreams a reality.

By Cathy Dzerefos

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