KOCHI: A month before Kerala chose to adopt self-sufficiency by promoting gardening, converting wastelands for farming and boosting animal husbandry to aid in food production, 35 Class IX students of Mar Thoma Public School at Kakkanad were already ahead of the game. Senior Hindi teacher Saritha Vijayakumar is to be credited for this achievement. While she was conducting online classes for Class X students in March after the lockdown was declared, she decided to introduce one batch of Class IX students to her favourite pastime - farming.
The teacher sought permission from the school principal and the respective class teacher to engage the students in the new skill. Upon creating a WhatsApp group, she actively began providing virtual farming lessons. “Almost all the students were idle during the lockdown and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get them started on something new that could aid them lifelong. Primarily, I created video bytes with tips and how-to-dos and a calendar comprising the schedule for farming specific vegetables. They promptly took a deep interest in it.
Appreciation and encouragement by the parents kept me going. Students would ask me doubts on using pesticides, to which I would give simple pointers on making natural ones such as rice starch. They regularly send pictures of the progress they make, which is rather fulfilling to observe. Occasionally I give live session classes which also helped them a lot,” says Saritha, also the in-charge of the Green Club at school.
Hailing from a farming family, Saritha has always had a green thumb. She has ensured the cultivation of a variety of fruits and vegetables on the school premises. The teacher mentioned that being the school coordinator of the Student Empowerment For Environmental Development (SEED) programme was an added advantage.
As most students lived in apartments, they grew vegetables like spinach and coriander in grow bags and bottles, and on small areas of land. The students’ stint with farming was then compiled into a video on World Environment Day, June 5. “I’d told the students that the one with better skills would be the leader of the Green Club next year. This also served as motivation to them. Until the end of May, virtual farming classes were conducted regularly. Though it is difficult for the classes to resume with the same intensity owing to their regular classes, many of them continue to ask doubts and farm effectively,” she added.