The story of Aynur Çabuk
A girl in seventh grade in a Turkish boarding school talks about the lessons in food production and self-reliance unfolding in a unique classroom - school greenhouses provided by TeleFood.
My name is Aynur Cabuk. That's me way in the back second from the right with the black jacket. I am 13 years old and go to the Hikmet Ulu?bay Boarding School in Polatli District, north of Ankara. Here I am with some of my classmates during our daily agriculture class. [All Photos: ©FAO/Ami Vitale]
This is the room I share with three other girls. I sleep on the top bunk. I've been at the school for three years. Before, I lived with my family near Ankara, but now my parents are divorced. My mother had to stop working to care for my elder brother. He is 17 and disabled, so he can't work or go to school. My father is in prison.
The teachers from my old school arranged for me to come here because my mom couldn't take care of both my brother and me at home.
Turkish and social studies are my favourite subjects, but I do well in all my classes. This year, I received honours for the highest marks in the school. I'm also the vice president of my class. I work on the school magazine, too, writing articles and poems.
Our TeleFood greenhouses
That's our headmaster, Yüksel Aydin, who also teaches our agriculture class. He and my friend Ozlem are working in one of our TeleFood greenhouses - we have two now. They are tying up the string we used to train our tomato plants so that it won't be in the way. Then we can clear away the dead plants and prepare the soil for the spinach and leeks we will be planting next.
We built the first greenhouse two years ago with funds from TeleFood, which also provided seeds. We had a really good harvest the first year. Some funds were still available from the TeleFood project, so we used them to build a second greenhouse.
Space to grow
This is the other greenhouse. We already have onions growing, and now we're planting alfalfa. After our classes are over, we like to come and help Yüksel in the greenhouse during our free time - especially when the tomatoes are ripe! Yüksel always teases us, “What are you doing taking my tomatoes?” because we are always picking and eating them. A lot of the students are orphans, or our parents are divorced or have other problems and can't take care of us at home. But it's like a family here. Yüksel is like a father.
Working the soil
I like to work with the soil. I knew a little bit about gardening before from the plots in my family's village, but I've learned a lot working in the greenhouse. Last year, we planted flowers, too. As a prize, Yüksel gave the hardest working students a pot of flowers to take back to their rooms, which made everyone want to study more. By the end, everyone had his own pot of flowers! Some of the people in town have tried greenhouse production, but they weren't very successful. Now, with what we've learned in our agriculture class and by working with Yüksel in our school greenhouses, we can teach them how to get a better harvest.
This is our cafeteria. Breakfast is served at 8:00. As vice president, one of my jobs is to wake up the other students and make sure they go to their study class, which is from 7:00 to 8:00, and then get them to breakfast on time. I'm also a cafeteria monitor, responsible for making sure everyone behaves during meals. This year, we had a good harvest in our greenhouses - tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, green beans, strawberries - and the cooks in the cafeteria used the food we grew to prepare our meals. It's a good feeling to eat what we produce. Thanks to our TeleFood greenhouses, we have fresh vegetables all year long. We also make tomato paste and ketchup from our tomatoes.
In the afternoon, after classes are over, I work in the school library. My job is to keep the library tidy. I also keep the registry of books taken out and am responsible for making sure that the students return them. As you can see, we have a lot of books. It's a nice, quiet place to study. And, if we need a break from studying, there's also a chess table.
This is our computer classroom. That's Ramazan helping Ozlem. Ramazan is one of the best students in the school, especially in math and computers. He and his younger brother have been at the school for four years, ever since their mother died. Their father lives in Ankara, and they go visit him on weekends.
This is the school playground. We also have a football field and basketball court. I like to play football, but the school only has a boys' team and they won't let me play on it. I think they're jealous of how good I am! We play together on the weekends though. Our gym teacher is going to take me to Ankara where there is a girls' team I can play on.
We have a girls' table tennis team though, and I'm the best player!
To the doctor
Today they are taking some of us to town for doctors' visits. I have a dentist appointment, and Ramazan needs an eye examination. There are eight of us going to appointments this week. We all go together in this van, but not all of our doctors are at the same clinic, so while each student has their appointment, the others wait.
End of the school day
I like school very much, particularly my teachers and my friends. My goal is to become a doctor so that I can take care of my mother and brother. I'm hoping to get into a specialized high school next year, but it's very competitive so I have to study hard.
In the evenings I attend a special course, along with about 15 other students, to prepare for the entrance exam. I hope I get in, although I'll miss my friends and teachers here - and the fresh strawberries from our TeleFood greenhouse!