Potential of school gardening as a laboratory for developing life skills in agriculture in primary schools: A case study of Soroti and Kamuli Districts, Uganda.
School curricula in Africa have been argued to be dominated by competitive academic subjects and prioritize terminal examinations over practical skills and contextualized learning. Although it has been argued that schools can serve as platforms for reaching rural communities with farming innovations through pupils, school gardening is often viewed simply as a labor-based activity that offers few learning opportunities to pupils engaged in it, a majority of whom leave school without employability skills. This study was conducted in two primary (elementary) schools in Uganda to determine the potential of school gardening in providing life skills in agriculture and mitigating short-term hunger in UPE schools. Data were collected for a period of four school terms equivalent to two cropping seasons using qualitative methods of FGDs, interviews, and observation. Findings showed that there was strong interest by pupils to willingly participate in school gardening activities and enhanced learning transfer of skills from the school garden to pupils’ home gardens. The agricultural clubs offered the social energy that formed the foundation for learning technical aspects of agriculture in a more supportive environment of work and fun. School gardening had a number of benefits to pupils such as acquisition of knowledge and practical skills on crop production (life skills), food eaten by pupils and teachers and people oriented skills such as leadership, teamwork among others. It is recommended that the various education stakeholders and the communities be exposed and engaged to appreciate the processes and outcomes of school gardening as a learning laboratory and as a strategy for self-sustainability of school feeding programmes. Furthermore, the primary school agriculture curriculum in Uganda necessitates review to include the practical component in the school timetables.
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