Peering through the flaps of a polytunnel greenhouse at Kithoma School, 14-year-old Gednight is enthusiastically explaining how water is drip-fed from a rainwater tank to keep rows of tomato plants irrigated.

“The water is sieved so that the pipes don’t block and then it slowly feeds through to the root zones,” she explains. “The plants are grown 30 cm apart in cocoa peat beds which are 90cm wide with walkways in between them. We snip off any excess branches so that they don’t take valuable nutrients from the fruits and add cow manure as fertilizer. Then, we are able to harvest tomatoes from December to March.”

Gednight, who is in S2, is one of a cohort of pupils at Kithoma chosen to be involved in the crop-growing project that generates an additional income for the school.

It is paying dividends. After picking, students weigh their harvest and it is transported to Uganda’s capital Kampala and sold to supermarkets.  One kilo is worth between 2,000 and 3,000 shillings. This season, the school has produced 500 kilos.

From this we are learning skills that are useful now and in the future.

“When I went home for the holiday I showed my parents how to go about growing tomatoes and eggplants. Of course, we don’t have a greenhouse and had to grow them without a roof, but they did well and my parents thought it was great. My mother has a small shop and she was able to sell some of the crops.

“And it means we eat well as tomatoes and eggplants add nutrients to our bodies. Our Biology teacher taught us that they are good for us.”

Gednight is the oldest of three children in her family. Her father is a small businessman who buys coffee beans from local growers and transports them to sell in a town in the west of Uganda called Kasese. She says that the low fees at the school mean that her family can afford to send her to the school and to board even though she lives nearby. “If I had to travel to the school, it would take up lots of time,” she explains, “and I would have to do jobs when I got home so there would be less time for studying.    

“My little sisters are counting the days until they can come to this Peas school.”