TIRUPPUR: As with most drawing teachers, A Vince too fills the school blackboards often with stunning landscape sketches. But the thousand-word ‘picture’ that his students would remember him forever will be of a lush vegetable garden on the KSC Government School premises. It’s no mean achievement that all vegetables needed to prepare noon meals for the 500-odd students at this school in Tiruppur city, are sourced from this green enclosure.
Vince is not alone in this gardening mission. Many students from classes 5-9 join him to sow seeds, water the plants and reap the harvest. “I hail from an agrarian family in Azhagiya Mandapam in Kanniyakumari district. While joining this school in 2011, I noticed dense bushes sprawling in the compound. With the help of the then headmaster, Sadasivam, I cleared the bushes and cleaned the premises. Initially, we created a small garden featuring arali poo (oleander flowers). Later, we decided to grow vegetables,” the 59-year-old recalls.
The drawing instructor then dipped his brush in all hues of green and ‘painted’ a ravishing garden. Inspired by his efforts, the school management decided to constitute an Eco Club in 2017. Over and above teaching students to care for the plants, Vince, who heads the club, also enlightens them on environmental issues.
“I buy seeds and natural fertilizer from the horticulture department in Coimbatore. Every week, the students and I harvest four to five kg of tomatoes, green chillies, pencil-thin beans, and bottle gourd. We give them to the cooks in charge of the noon meal scheme at our school,” he adds. The word on the street is that the fruits of their labour are full-flavoured.
This is not to say that Vince and his students had it all smooth sailing. The young ones were devastated when they couldn’t visit the garden or water the plants during the pandemic lockdowns. The flora reciprocated the gloom. By the time the children returned to the garden after the lockdown, all the plants had wilted.
Vince and his team began the work all over again. They tilled the land, sowed seeds, watered the plants daily and before they knew it, their Eden was back. “If each school decides to grow a garden like this, there would be at least 600 hundred vegetable gardens in the entire district. There are plenty of vacant spaces in higher secondary schools in Tiruppur city and other places. More teachers should come forward to inspire the students to take up gardening,” he wishes.
All teachers are vehemently vocal when talking about the sad plight of farmers, but when asked if they had helped at least one student plant a sapling, they will draw a blank.
The three dozen trees that the KSC school students huddle up under for shade are also Vince’s contribution. Speaking to TNIE, the school headmaster, Sivakumar, says, he encouraged and supported Vince in all the activities.
“Every month, I supply him with around 20 kg of natural fertilizer. I was also born into an agricultural family. Gardening is an important co-curricular activity in our school,” he said.
The bell rings, and the students line up for their noon meal. The kids have certainly earned this scrumptious meal. What’s the secret behind this yummy taste, you ask? Well, the veggies didn’t have to travel that far to reach their plates.
(Edited by Alen Moni Mathews)