Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
NOLUTHANDO Mtselu, 81, is not content with spending her days "basking in the sun" and looking after grandchildren.
"Sitting at home doing nothing is not an option. I am still fit and able to work," Mtselu said.
Mtselu, of Pimville, Soweto, is one of 31 elderly men and women who make up a committee that tends a food garden at Thembu Primary School.
Started in 2006, the food garden provides fresh vegetables for the school's feeding scheme. The garden has flourished from a small patch in a rocky area to verdant plots that surround the school yard.
The school has since been adopted by the ministry of agriculture of the Netherlands. The ministry funds Food and Trees for Africa, which supplies the school garden with seeds and tools.
Nolungile Mfeketo, 59, looks after three grandchildren who are also pupils at the school.
"I came to work in the garden to keep the wolf from the door," Mfeketo said.
She said the family survived on the support grant of two of her grandchildren which is less than R500 a month.
"The garden ensures that the children have something to eat at school when I cannot provide for them. I can also take vegetables home, so we don't go to bed hungry," Mfeketo said.
Though she suffers from arthritis and high blood pressure, Mfeketo said she enjoyed tending her plot.
"I get listless if for some reason I can't make it," she said.
Sarah Vumba, 60, a grandmother of two, said she regarded her work in the garden as a form of exercise.
"I also look forward to harvesting, when we reap vegetables and even sell them," Vumba said.
Principal Nokuthula Kwadi said 150 of the 341 pupils at the school depended on the feeding scheme.
"The number fluctuates and depends on the financial situation of a household. Parents and guardians are usually able to provide for their children if they are employed. More children rely on the feeding scheme if their parents lose their jobs," Kwadi said.
Food garden coordinator and teacher Nomasomi Matyana said the vegetables provide extra nutrition for the children, who receive mielie meal and soya mince from the government.
Matyana said pupils and their families benefited from the garden even during school holidays because their parents and guardians had taken ownership of the project.
"Members of the committee work on the garden even when the schools are closed. They can take vegetables home to feed their families," Matyana said.
Kwadi said pupils were also given food parcels consisting of vegetables, samp, rice, soup powder and mielie meal.