Conservation and Inspiration in Barrydale

Conservation and Inspiration in Barrydale

Thank you to Derek Joubert, Director of Net vir Pret, for providing the  information below and giving Swellengram permission to publish it. If any readers would like to know more, or would like to become involved with any of these amazing projects, please have a look at the facebook page HERE or email 


Holiday Schools

Preparations for the annual Giant Puppet Parade and Performance have been gathering momentum since April and are now in full swing as December approaches. This year’s theme carries forward our passion for conservation and biodiversity and also for reconciliation in our divided village.

Barrydale conservationists, Prof. Les Minter and Flora Cameron brought our attention last year to the plight of a species of Red Fin Minnow unique to the Huis River which flows through our village.

Cape Nature’s Martine Jordaan with us at the Huis River

Pollution, the invasion of alien species and vegetation and thoughtless exploitation of the river have placed the Red Fin under severe threat of extinction. Our Interns and Young Leaders responded by signing up for a Save the Red Fin Campaign and with our children set about cleaning the river and cutting down alien growth on Wednesday afternoons.

It seemed appropriate that the River and the Red Fin would provide the theme for this year’s Parade. With the help of Cape Nature, staff and Interns researched the situation and Young Leaders and children were brought on board in the July Holiday School which featured the River and the Red Fin as its theme.

Vleiplaas girls present their Red Fin play

A record of 130 youngsters turned up for the programme and they spent the week learning about the Red Fin and its situation. They were then tasked in age groups to improvise a play about the Red Fin for performance on the final day, complete with props and puppets.

The 4-6 year olds present their contribution

In the second week, the Holiday School moved to the Vleiplaas Farm School where 55 youngsters attended a similar programme.

Vleiplaas Farm school

The December Parade is being directed by Aja Marneweck, a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research Flagship at the University of the Western Cape, our partners in this annual event. CHR also provided a workshop for our actors run by Itumeleng Wa Lehulere and a water-sound workshop for our musicians run by Luis Gimenez.

The September Holiday School was dedicated to cleaning up the environment and then recycling what could be salvaged. Among the items made was the red fin installation the six youngsters alongside constructed from waste plastic and mounted on the school fence.

Redfin installation created from waste


In October we had a surprise visit from three musicians from Switzerland comprising the Swiss Urban Ländler Passion. Sponsored by the Swiss Arts Council, they brought with them a tenor and an alto sax, a tuba, a double bass, several concertinas and a huge Alpen horn.

Swiss Urban Ländler Passion

We took them to play for children at the Vleiplaas and Akkerboom Farm Schools, at the BF Oosthuizen Primary School in Barrydale and for the Net vir Pret After Care Programme. We also took them to the Ebenezer Old Age Club in our township where they were a great hit.

The SULP musicians were extraordinarily generous with their time and indeed with themselves and the children who met them had an experience they’ll never forget.

An experience they’ll never forget.

Three of our young musicians joined them in performance at the Karoo Art Hotel and the Mez Restaurant in Barrydale.


Both our junior and senior Riel Dance groups came home from the ATKV riel dance festival in Vredendal with trophies.

ATKV riel dance festival

The senior group was invited to provide the entertainment at the opening of the Fossil Park Museum in Langebaan in October before a distinguished audience.

Performed with rap artists

On Heritage Day we ran an all-day event at which our 13 riel dance groups performed alongside local rap artists.


Project Hope, our full-time programme for school drop-outs grows from strength to strength. While 5 of the original group are back at school, the remaining 9 have been joined by a further 5 who attend our programme every day.

They are receiving individual tuition in numeracy and literacy from retired special needs teacher, Andries Truter, and are also learning carpentry, have planted an extensive food garden and have embarked on a new project to propagate succulents.

A new project to propagate succulents.

They set up a stall at the recent Barrydale October Fest where the work of youngsters who were previously stigmatised and considered good-for-nothing was admired by all

In September the boys prepared a chicken curry for a dinner to which their mothers were invited and at which they were presented with Certificates of Achievement.

Cooking for Mum


Although four farm schools (Vleiplaas, Lemoenshoek, Akkerboom and Weltevrede) are visited on mornings once a week for a programme involving story-telling,art and craft and sport, we felt it was high time the farm youngsters had the chance to participate in the activities offered at our centre in the village.

Several have shown promise.

In consequence we have been bringing in groups of teenagers on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. They have had access to the computers in the Homework Room and the Eduplay programme, and more particularly to the Jazz Studio where several have shown promise. We are now inviting them to participate in the Pottery and Craft Studios as well.

The Jazz Studio


The Pottery Studio acquired a new, smaller kiln during the year and now firings can take place at more frequent intervals than before. The studio has worked solidly and the pottery produced has been exhibited at the Barrydale Library, the Barrydale Blooms Festival and the Barrydale October Fest.


The Art and Craft Studio increased its meetings from three to four sessions a week to accommodate a new group of youngsters entering their teens who are now too old for the After Care Programme.

The Studio has done a lot of work on the Red Fin theme, producing fish images from recycled material and making banners and cushion covers on the theme.

The Studio held exhibitions of work at the Barrydale Blooms Festival and will exhibit work in the Barrydale Library in December.


The After Care Programme runs every weekday afternoon and up to 50 youngsters cram in on a regular basis. Activities run from story-telling and reading to art and craft to biking and games. Youngsters also receive a nourishing meal.

We are particularly grateful to Mike Clarke and Lisa and David Hooley who make soup for the children on Wednesdays and also to the Lunchbox Fund which provides foodstuff for the Holiday Schools.


Our Interns are tasked each year with improvising a play on a theme of social concern which can tour schools and this year’s group decided to tackle marijuana as their theme. They began by combing the web for information and followed this by conducting interviews in the community – at the clinic, the police station, the schools, with parents, grandparents, teenagers and self-confessed smokers.

Open your Mind

After two months of hard work, they came up with Open Your Mind, a 40 minute play, set in the classroom, which told the story of a teenage girl pulled one way by friends who smoked and the other way by others who didn’t.

The script was full of humour and engaged audiences wherever they played. The star of the show was Intern Selanvor Platjies, whose original rap accompanied the action and provided a commentary on it.

Intern Selanvor Platjies

There were 32 performances in all, at school in towns and on farms as far afield as CalitzdorpRobertsonSlangrivier and Swellendam.


The 18 computers in the Homework Room continue to be a valuable resource.

Valuable Resource

In the mornings they are available to anyone who wishes to do research or type a cv; after lunch the after-care children take it in turns to access the Eduplay language and maths learning programme; then the farm children have their chance and finally the facility is available until 18h30 to youngsters who want to work on school assignments.

Working on school assignments

It should be noted that the primary school and the farm schools do not have computer labs, and the high school’s single lab is only accessible to those students who have Computer Applications Technology as a subject.


Our Drama Group decided to tackle a theme of a more serious nature than we have before. They chose to tell the story of vulnerable teenage girl who is abused by her trusted uncle.

Who is to Blame?

With flashbacks to the past, the play showed the girl’s older self trying to come to terms with what had happened to her younger self.

Who Is To Blame? was selected at the semi-finals of the Overberg Drama Festival to go forward to the finals which will be held in Oudtshoorn in February 2019


In an attempt to develop a Heritage Tourism aspect to the services we offer, we invite accredited Heritage Tourism Trainer, Joline Young, to run two 3-day workshops with us. There were 5 participants and each has now developed a unique tour of their own which highlights aspects of Barrydale, both in the village and on the farms.

The tours will be available over the weekend in the lead-up to the December Parade and we hope that this will provide an impetus for further development of what could be an income-generating activity.


A box of 100 Little Suns arrived during the year, sent as a donation by Belgian pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Griet du Pont. The Little Suns are small but powerful solar-powered lamps.

Small but powerful solar-powered lamps.

We were given the opportunity to distribute them. We decided to target households on local farms which do not have electricity and have to do everything by candle-light.

Our Director and our Administrator (Peter and Derek) spent the month heading out to the farms in the evenings to find deserving recipients.

In the end we gave the lamps to 35 different households on 6 farms, where they were greatly welcomed. In truth, the need is such that we could have distributed three times the number.

…they were greatly welcomed


Now in its sixth year, our partnership with PETS is focusing on emergent reading and emergent mathematics in 2018. With assistance of educators from Net vir Pret, the Vleiplaas and Akkerboom Farm Schools, and the local BF Oosthuizen Primary School, PETS Director Dr. Michael Rice has developed an interactive 8-module internet course entitled It Begins At Birth for practicing teachers, ECD practitioners, caregivers and Home Schooling parents which will be launched on the E-classroom website in January 2019.

Educating Teachers

An Afrikaans version will be available shortly thereafter, and Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Sepedi versions are in the pipeline. The online course will be supported by a hard copy booklet.

The course covers how children start becoming literate at birth and continue the process throughout life through a combination of cognitive development and interaction with their environment. In broad terms it includes not only speaking, story-telling, reading and writing, but also emergent mathematics, with which it shares many similar concepts.


The Ukwanda Puppetry Collective, who are building the Giant Puppets for this year’s Parade have just completed the Red Fin Minnow Puppet

redfin puppet


leave your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *