Sensory garden will be haven for blind learners

Sensory-Garden1---textTheo Konqo (striped shirt) and Liyanda Kabani (white cap), learners from Zisukanya, in the sensory garden. (Images: Botanical Society of South Africa) 

Smell and touch will be the main senses the blind students at Zisukanya Early Childhood Development Centre in Cape Town will use to enjoy their new sensory garden.

The Botanical Society of South Africa has launched the sensory garden at the Athlone School for the Blind for the young pupils from Zisukanya. It is a collaboration between MySchool, the Rotary Club of Kirstenbosch and the Redhatters Bridge Club, and will be a place where the children can engage with nature through touch and smell instead of sight.

The MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet fundraising programme is one of South Africa’s biggest community support programmes. It raises essential funds for schools, charities and environmental organisations through a system that encourages cardholders to swipe their cards at retail partners. In turn, these donate a percentage of the purchase value to the beneficiary of the buyer’s choice.

According to the Botanical Society, the sensory garden will promote educational opportunities and exposure to biodiversity not only for the Zisukanya pupils but for the children at Athlone School for the Blind and their families, as well as for staff.

“It is the first step in what the Botanical Society hopes will become a multi-functional garden – a place where the children can play freely, enjoy the tranquillity of nature and have picnics with their friends, family and school staff.”

AN ON-GOING EFFECT

Zaitoon Rabaney, the executive director of the Botanical Society, believes this initiative will have an ongoing effect.

“As the garden grows and develops the school aims to involve the learners in maintaining the garden at each stage,” Rabaney said, “such as supplying the kids with watering cans and spades to maintain it, creating a sense of awareness and responsibility, so it becomes a space that they don’t just visit, but nurture and develop.”

SensoryGarden2---textZoë Mjoli (striped cap) and Likuwe Mgweba from Zisukanya experiencing some of the plants in the garden.

This project speaks to one of the 16 targets set out in South Africa’s Strategy for Plant Conservation, according to the Botanical Society. The strategy emphasizes the importance of plant diversity and the need for conservation incorporated into communication, education and public awareness programmes.

“It has been great to support this project and play a part in creating a space for special needs learners,” said Pieter Twine, MySchool’s general manager. “The garden allows for students to express their sensory and learning capabilities with a hands-on approach, while also promoting the education of healthy eating and an environmental awareness.

“In addition to donating funds towards the garden, MySchool donated two benches made out of recycled material to be placed in the garden for teachers and learners to enjoy outdoor lessons and during break.”

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