SMS helps transform school gardening across South Africa
The EduPlant Programme in partnership with the Woolworths Trust is the flagship initiative of Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA). It aims to empower educators and local community members across South Africa by teaching permaculture. This leading school food-gardening and greening programme runs over a 2-year cycle and provides workshops and educational material, ensuring that schools can, not only start, but continue to grow their own vegetables. Since its launch in 1994, the EduPlant Programme has helped improve the livelihoods of thousands of local communities and supply school children with healthy organic vegetables.
With so many teachers and community leaders to stay in touch with on a regular basis, the team at FTFA turned to SMS to help facilitate effective communication. Here’s how:
Kate Bezuidenhout, Operations Manager of Food & Trees for Africa, told us that “The schools participating in EduPlant are “no fee” schools, this means that the schools don’t always have technology infrastructure such as computers, phones and internet. However, we find that almost all of the teachers have cell phones which makes communicating via SMS very effective.”
FTFA’s use of the BulkSMS Text Messenger has proven to be the most effective way of ensuring that various programme deadlines are met. For example, when a school is invited to enrol in the EduPlant Programme, SMS messages are sent to the staff to remind them to finalise their applications. This has resulted in an increase in completed submissions to the programme. At the end of the EduPlant programme, SMS messages are used again to prompt the schools to enrol in the competition where they are given the chance to present their garden’s story.
According to Bezuidenhout, the BulkSMS platform is also used to enable two-way communication between the organisers of the programme and the teachers. In cases where a school has lost an invitation or they have any queries about directions to a workshop, they simply send an SMS message to the FTFA team who then reply with the relevant information. “SMS makes our lives much easier and it allows us to engage with the educators via a platform that they are familiar with.”
Bezuidenhout goes on to say that EduPlant will soon be increasing their use of SMS, and will be sending planting notifications and seasonal updates to all the schools throughout the programme. “With this SMS solution in place, we will be able to communicate with thousands of schools around South Africa quickly and effectively. Our plan is to start sending regular notifications to the schools. These will include useful information such as gardening tips and reminders about workshops.”
“FTFA’s use of SMS to communicate with schools across South Africa is such a great example of the reliability and effectiveness of SMS. Not only does SMS ensure that important messages are received by the schools but it also provides a platform that is familiar and accessible to underprivileged communities. We are very excited to see how SMS is being used to facilitate the communication of such a socially and environmentally important initiative,” says Dr. Pieter Streicher, managing director of BulkSMS.com.