False Bay Nature Reserve officials and Alexander Sinton High School pupils and their teacher during Tuesday's tree-planting event at the school. Picture: Naasig Adams
Cape Town - Three city schools, Alexander Sinton High, Al Azhar High and Lwazi Primary School held tree-planting ceremonies to symbolise gender peace and observe Arbor Week, held at the beginning of September each year.

Awqaf South Africa, an NGO focusing on sustainable growth in communities, in partnership with the municipality and the False Bay Nature Reserve, hosted the planting events.

At each school, three waterbessie trees and an olive tree were planted. The waterbessie is an indigenous, evergreen tree with waxy leaves, ideal for the high water table on the Cape Flats. It reaches about 15m at maturity.

Olive trees, which can provide fruit for thousands of years, were planted as a symbolic gesture of peace, and a living monument against gender violence, currently traumatising the country.

“The dove and the olive are partners in peace, and by planting the olive tree we plant hope into the soil. One day the dove will rest in its branches and complete the cycle,” said Awqaf South Africa deputy chief executive Mickaeel Collier.

“There is a need to green our centres of education and to teach learners the importance of having trees as a vital part of the ecosystem. It is also important for young people to understand the real power of symbolism in combating social ills,” he said.

Alexander Sinton geography teacher Adiela Ganief, the head of the school’s environmental club, said the school was honoured to receive conservation officials and members of Awqaf South Africa as guests.

“By planting trees we can reduce our carbon footprint. Our learners were excited to be part of this. They even brought their own spades and plants, to green our school surrounds,” she said.

At Lwazi Primary School in Gugulethu, there was a moving poignancy to the tree-planting. Last Friday morning, unknown men had been seen dumping a woman's body next to the school grounds, a harrowing experience for the community and a worrying reminder of gender violence.

“Not only do we welcome this opportunity to green our environment, but we are taking a firm stand against the gender violence that affects so many people, and even our learners.

"By planting this olive tree we want to bring peace and hope to our community,” said Lwazi Primary principal Maxwell Mdini, as excited learners gathered around the trees.

Cape Argus