Jarren Gangiah, a Grade 7 Science teacher at Charles Duna Primary school in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, is no ordinary science teacher.
With over 1060 pupils at the school in New Brighton, he is passionate about enhancing the lives and minds of his students and the surrounding communities.
“We are as a collective in pursuit of opportunities, experiences and activities that will develop our learners to excel in the 21st century world,” says Gangiah, who is also the Coding Programme subject head for the school’s Science and Technology Coordinator of Robotics. “Partnering with INMED South Africa and their Health in Action programme has been such a positive experience.”
Health in Action is a partnership of INMED South Africa and the Mondelēz International Foundation to promote access to fresh foods via school gardens, nutrition and healthy lifestyles education and participatory fitness activities in low-resourced primary schools.
Gangia, an avid lover of agriculture himself, says farming is in his blood, having parents who farm potatoes and pigs in KZN. His love for the land has been passed down through the generations about how to use the land and take care of it and it’s that knowledge he is passionately sharing with his students now.
As part of the Health in Action programme, Charles Duna maintains a fresh produce garden where students and teachers use a growing tunnel and garden patches to produce fresh vegetables, which are supplied to the school’s kitchen and sold as a form of income for unemployed community members. The school will be the first Health in Action school in Port Elizabeth to receive an INMED Aquaponics® system, which will significantly increase the amount of fresh produce for the school and raise exotic ornamental fish. “This will provide us with the opportunity to grow fresh produce in the system while growing and breeding fish that will be sold to local pet stores and community members in Port Elizabeth,” says Gangia. The school also will use waste from its kitchen for compost so the whole project is organic and sustainable.
Learners have been integrated into the programme and given the opportunity to learn how to take care of fish stock, how to feed them, how to check water quality and create the right conditions for healthy, happy fish. There has also been a positive spin off to the community. “In time we want to invite community members to come to workshops at Charles Duna Primary where they can learn how to reproduce these systems at home. They can then provide themselves with fresh produce or sell to provide an income,” he explains.
Gangia, with the support of INMED, is keen to expand the programme to produce ornamental and food stock fish as well as multiply their capacity to grow fresh produce using the aquaponics system. “We need expertise and support in the forms of workshops, resources and hands-on experience to make this a success,” he says. “INMED has the opportunity to open its first school-based aquaponics project in Port Elizabeth, where we can work in collaboration to make this a success.”
“Partnering with Charles Duna Primary on this project would be an opportunity for INMED to expand production capacity for our INMED Aquaponics Social Enterprise and inspire agro-entrepreneurship in the communities of Port Elizabeth,” notes Unathi Sihlahla, INMED South Africa Programme Director.
Gangia says the impact will extend far beyond Port Elizabeth. “With this project, we are developing learners who can go out and make this country greater, with more sustainable values and creative ways of generating an income than ever been before,” he says, and encourage more schools to integrate aquaponics into their curricula.
“It is my belief that it is our duty as educators to provide learners with the skills, knowledge and experience to survive, break the cycle of poverty, create their own resources and businesses,” says Gangia. “We can use agriculture, aquaponics and gardening as an emancipatory tool.”
At Charles Duna Primary, the dream is to have a sustainable campus based on the principles of Permaculture, which will continue to produce for years to come. With someone as passionate as Jarren Gangia at the helm, we have no doubt that dream will become a reality.
Learn more about INMED South Africa’s aquaponics training and support for future aquaponics farmers at https://inmedase.org.