Three local schools, Alexander Sinton High, Al Azhar High and Lwazi Primary in Gugulethu, enjoyed tree planting ceremonies to symbolise gender peace and to commemorate Arbor Week, which is celebrated at the beginning of September each year.
Awqaf South Africa, an NGO that focuses on sustainable community growth, partnered with the City of Cape Town and the False Bay Nature Reserve, to bring home the importance of environmental awareness, and to also make a symbolic gesture of “green peace” with regards to gender violence.
At each school, three Waterbessie trees and one olive tree were planted. The Waterbessie is an indigenous water-loving evergreen tree with waxy leaves, ideal for the high-water table Cape Flats, and grows to an impressive height of 15 metres when mature.
The historical olive, which can provide fruit for centuries, was planted at each school as a symbolic gesture of peace, and a living monument against the gender violence currently traumatising the country.
“The dove and the olive are partners in peace, and by planting the olive tree we plant hope into the soil. One day the dove will rest in its branches and complete the cycle,” said Mickaeel Collier, Deputy CEO of Awqaf.
“There is a need to green our centres of education and to teach learners the importance of having trees as a vital part of the ecosystem. It is also important for young people to understand the real power of symbolism in combating social ills,” said Collier.
According to Alexander Sinton Geography teacher, Adila Ganief, who is also the head of the school’s Environmental Club, the school was honoured to receive conservation officials and Awqaf SA as guests at the school.
“It is really great to be able to educate our learners about practical solutions to a sustainable environment. By planting trees we can reduce our carbon footprint. Our learners were excited to be part of this. They even brought their own spades and plants to green our school surrounds,” she said.
At Lwazi Primary School in Gugulethu, there was moving poignancy to the tree planting. Last Friday morning, unknown men had been seen dumping a woman’s body next to the school grounds in NY 112, a harrowing experience for the community and a sober reminder of the horrors of gender violence.
“We not only welcome this opportunity to green our environment, but we are taking a firm stand against gender violence that affects so many people, and even our learners. By planting this olive tree we want to bring peace and hope to our community,” said Lwazi principal, Maxwell Mdini, as excited learners gathered around the trees.