Farm fresh: How this Kerala govt school grows its own veggies and beats the heat

Several classes, including poetry sessions, are conducted outside the four walls of the classrooms every day.
Farm fresh: How this Kerala govt school grows its own veggies and beats the heat
Farm fresh: How this Kerala govt school grows its own veggies and beats the heat
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The students of the Government Upper Primary school in Pazhayaviduthy in Idukki district now have a new classroom – their very own vegetable garden.

Since January this year, several classes, including poetry sessions, are being conducted outside the four walls of the classrooms every single day. The school officials have transformed the two courtyards on either side of the school building into a healthy space where the children can sit and learn, also effectively beating the increasing summer temperatures.

In these courtyards, passion fruit vines and other creepers are grown to create a natural, ‘plant-made’ roof, under which the students now spend considerable time every day.

Speaking to TNM, Joy Andrews, the school’s headmaster says that the initiative was done to also beat the summer heat and to provide a natural and refreshing space for the students to study. He says that planning and efforts of nearly a year ensured that the students are able to study without the summer hear wearing them down.

“We planted passion fruit last year after the monsoons and set up frames so that the creepers grow on them to provide shade. Our school is situated on the side of a busy road and we have put asbestos sheets for the roof. This means it is unbearable for people to sit inside the building during summer,” Joy explains.

Organic all the way

The journey of the government school with farming began nearly four years ago. While the staff began a farm inside the school compound to promote organic farming, the years that followed saw this in-house farm meeting the needs of the school.

“Around half an acre of the school compound was lying unused at one point. So we decided to undertake farming on the plot, more so because Idukki is a place known for agriculture. We now grow almost all vegetables in the compound, from peas to beans, tomatoes, brinjal, radish and more. Four years since we began farming here, we rely on our own farm to meet the needs of the mid-day meals. We buy only onions and potatoes from the market. Most of the other vegetables are grown here,” Joy explains.

While the organic vegetable garden has brought several laurels to the school, Joy says that it was set up with the support of the students and their parents alike.

“When this initiative began, parents and teachers got together and contributed equally. The students water the farm every day, and some parents and teachers work at the farm after school hours to ensure that the initiative goes on,” says Joy.

A plant for every child

With 150 students studying in the school till Class 7 and eight staff members, all the students have plants allotted to them – named after the students themselves. From watering to taking care of the plant, the responsibility of the plant lies with each student.

“Every morning before the classes start, the students water the plants and make sure there are no issues. They also assess the growth of the plant. When they are allotted plants, which are also named after them, students find it interesting and put in more effort in taking care of their plant,” Joy says.

While Krishi Bhavan provides the required seeds to the school, school officials say the school spends close to Rs 30,000 to maintain the farm.

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