School Gardens impact Student Nutrition
posted by: Justice Atiim on July 26, 2019
According to the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (2014), about 13% and 19% of preschool-age children are underweight and stunted respectively, often attributed to poor nutrition. According to researchers, undernutrition has a direct bearing on poor school attendance, intelligence quotients and eventually school achievement.
RAINS, through its School Pedagogy project, not only seeks to introduce participatory teaching methodologies in schools to improve teaching and learning in schools but also to improve the nutritional status of pupils by complementing school feeding programmes with the nutritional value of fresh vegetables and medicinal plants.
Students participating in the project are already seeing rewards after transplanting a variety of plants to their school gardens earlier this month to begin another cropping cycle. School gardens at the six participating schools in the Northern Region are not only being utilized as a platform for learning Maths, English and Science subjects, but these gardens also have a close relationship with improving the nutrition of children. Students and teachers alike say that it feels great to be able to eat something that they have grown for themselves. This year the gardens include a wide variety of vegetables and medicinal plants, including pepper, tomato, carrots, cucumber, okra, amaranth, lettuce, cassava, sweet potato and moringa.
Teachers say they have noticed a drastic change in the diets of their students since the project began, stating that school cooks are now able to get fresh okro and other vegetables straight from the gardens, rather than using dried alternatives. They also have more certainty about the safety of what the children are eating, because they know exactly what types of fertilizers and other products have been used on their own gardens, and trust that “with our own produce we are less prone to sickness.”
Education centred on school gardens is shown to positively increase students’ knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the environment and food production systems, as well as equipping them early on with the capacity and knowledge necessary to grow their own food for improved nutrition in the future. Students have also embraced the change in their diets, stating that while at home they might eat fresh vegetables once or twice a week, at school they are able to eat fresh as often as every day, and that they especially enjoy the fresh cabbage and carrots that they have been able to grow.
Pupils of these schools are also engaged in rabbit rearing. This encourages the cultivation of vital life skills and further improves the nutrition of children. Each project school commenced rabbit rearing with 10 rabbits, which have since multiplied. According to health professionals, protein intake is low among children in northern Ghana and this project component seeds to address that challenge. It is thus expected that within its lifetime, this project will improve curriculum comprehension, classroom participation, and nutrition for as many as 2,300 pupils.