You wouldn’t expect a school principal to turn half a dozen loaves of bread into sandwiches before bed each night.
However, Ayesha Kazi is not your run of the mill principal. “I couldn’t believe it during a lesson on healthy eating, when I mentioned the importance of a good breakfast and one little girl told me that there is no food in her house. How can a child focus on lessons when they are hungry?” So, Ayesha took it upon herself to ensure that there was at least a sandwich for everyone to start their day.
AI Kajee School in Mooi River is where Ayesha has lived and worked for the past 23 years. She adores living in a small town – with priceless views of Giant’s Castle from her front door. “I love Mooi River, especially the seasonal changes that I observe in the hills”, she says with obvious joy. “We are so fortunate – our school grounds are our classroom, we have a wetland right next door and the learners get to experience snow first hand.”
These surroundings have fuelled her passion for the natural environment. When fellow teachers enrolled to do the Educator Skills Development course (Teaching about Biodiversity) at Treverton School nearby, she couldn’t resist joining them and loved it so much that she signed up for the next one too! “50% of the curriculum is environmental education, but not all teachers have the knowledge or skills to do it well.” She encourages her staff to grasp all the opportunities that come their way so that the learners get the very best education possible. No wonder there is a long waiting list for places at AI Kajee School.
Growing up in Benoni, Ayesha’s mum grew most of the vegetables the family ate. “I get my love of gardening from her. I still like to nibble on raw carrots or make a simple grated beetroot salad.” So, it comes as no surprise to find flourishing vegetable and herb gardens just below her office. Fresh spinach, and sometimes patty pans or pumpkins, are regularly included in the lunchtime feeding scheme, ensuring no one leaves school hungry at the end of the day. Learners are all involved and feel proud when they dig up the potatoes they planted.
Besides, her busy role as principal, Ayesha teaches the Life Skills class. “It is such an important subject in the curriculum – involving not only useful social skills, but creativity and exercise too. Recently, we learnt about medicinal herbs like bulbinella, which the children now pick to soothe rashes and scratches. We always celebrate Spring Day with beautiful hats made from recycled materials and plant indigenous trees.”
Ayesha is adamant that teaching is not a job, it is a passion. Interacting with the children is a joy. “They are fantastic and so responsive. I never have to shout, I gently tell them the consequences of the choices they make and encourage them to be responsible.”
After watching a breath-takingly beautiful sunset over the Drakensberg, Ayesha sets to work on the sandwiches and sleeps well, knowing she is doing the very best that she can for the learners in her care.
The writing of this story was made possible by N3 Toll Concession for the N3TC Journals