by Staff Reporter
There is no better way to ensure that your community is aesthetically appealing, while teaching the youth – our future generation – on how to take care of the environment besides going green. This is exactly what Professor Michael Pillay and Dr Cornelius Cano Ssemakalu from VUT’s Department of Biotechnology are doing with Project Bright Green.
Project Bright Green is a community engagement project created with the aim of rehabilitating the township environment through the planting of trees. The vision of Bright Green is “Quality environments – healthy people”. The mission of Bright Green is to plant fruit and shade trees in selected locations within the townships surrounding the Vaal University of Technology. A minimum of 5 aesthetic (shade) trees and 5 fruit trees annually.
The project which is funded by the Vaal University of Technology, has seen a total of 18 aesthetic trees planted in January 2016 at three high schools in Bophelong, a township located next to Vanderbijlpark and is 15km away from the Vaal University of Technology. The schools that participated in the planting of the trees were: Tsolo Secondary, Sapphire Secondary and Bophelong Secondary. Grade 8 learners were selected to participate in this activity, as the intention behind it is to have the planting class act as guardians for their trees in the next 5 years, until they complete high school at grade 12. After the tree planting, the learners were taught the importance of taking care of their environment and planting trees through an information session.
Seeking to encourage the learners further, a competition was held and students were tasked to write an essay about the importance of trees. The essays were collected in September 2016, with the awards ceremony held on Wednesday, 11 January 2017. The three best essays per school were selected and awarded with gift vouchers of R1000.00, R750 and R500.00, respectively. In addition, an award of R5000.00 was given to the school whose trees have grown the best thus far.
Since its implementation in January 2016, Project Bright Green has been well received. “We intend to run Project Green for a second cycle. In addition to that we intend to have the first year students within the department of biotechnology actively participate. The idea is to have each first year student grow their own tree from a seed. Upon their graduation 3 years later a tree planting event in a township shall be arranged. This idea was conceptualised with Ms. U. Terblanche a lecturer within the Department of Biotechnology,” said Professor Pillay.
Further funding to continue the project in 2017 has been allocated by the Director, Department for Community Engagement, Dr. Gerrit Du Plooy.