Imagine how it would be like if the primary school with which you enrolled when you were younger had a farm. Picture the farm complete with a vegetable garden, a banana plantation, poultry, crickets, earthworms, and other animals. Also, visualize that tending of this farm was part of your school curricular activities and your daily routine for that matter. A glorious concept- don’t you think so?
This picture I just painted is not an extract from a movie as you may think. In fact, this is exactly what is happening at MST Junior Academy. MST Junior Academy is one of the very few primary schools in Uganda that actively train their pupils in modern innovative farming.
“For each class, we provide relevant practical training in line with the Uganda National Curriculum,” said Dr. Naluyima Emma – the founder of the school.
Benefits to the children and the school
Countless studies have shown that, when kids spend time outdoors, they remember more of what they study; they do better on tests and are more inclined to eat healthy fresh food after they’ve helped grow them. They are more active, healthier, and happier overall. Children are able to understand where our food comes from, the importance of healthy food and what is needed to maintain growth. The knowledge they gain can be shared with parents allowing technology transfer.
“After the end of her first term in this school, my daughter Minnah told me I had been planting my banana the wrong way. She taught me the right spacing and hole dimensions, and the appropriate management practices also. But she is only eight years old kid. I am blessed my child is in this school,” said Miriam – one of the parents whose children study at this model school.
These young stars are already taking action. Ten year old Ashaba highlights that he has planted two banana plants at home; “One for Mom and one for me”- he smiles.
Nine-year-old Micheal who is in P.5 (the fifth level of primary school education) is looking into the future. Michael shares his aspiration, “I like farming because it can help to build my future tomorrow”.
Amazingly, some are already earning money and saving. Abukeyi sold his banana harvest from the school farm to the market and he is saving Ug Shs 60,000 in his account at Centenary Bank. It is compulsory at the school; every child has a bank account.
Spreading to other schools
Myself as the YPARD Country representative for Uganda, together with a team including Hon. Rosemary Nansubuga Seninde- the state minister for primary education in Uganda, Hon Kasamba Mathias – East Africa Legislative Assembly Representative, Dr. Jane Egau Okou – Commissioner Teacher Education and others visited this model school. The aim of our visit was to further improve on the government driven concept oriented towards spreading the model to all primary schools all over Uganda.
“The laws promoting this model are already in place. Now the gap is with the implementation. Moreover, we have seen here that children are taught to appreciate life as they take care of nature; for instance, as they are rabbits. This helps them to grow responsibly” said Hon Seninde.
YPARD supporting the vision
YPARD Uganda sees an opportunity for us to set up and coordinate the school farms, offer support and assistance to school farms, coordinate meetings and facilitate the exchange of ideas and information, including peer teacher support. The chapter has therefore resolved to arrange school teacher exchanges such that there will be discussions of ideas on how to stimulate understanding and support for school farms. By this, we believe that the teachers themselves will be inspired by one another. This way YPARD will further revive the general interest in school based farming and share with stakeholders the crucial roles that school farms have in supporting the development of a holistic education approach.