Finished your exam early? Knit a problem

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Finished your exam early? Knit a problem

School finds productive way to fill pupils' time as they wait for others to finish their papers

Journalist

Exams are stressful enough. Especially when you have finished your paper and there is lots of time left – and you may not leave the exam venue, nor check your phone, nor chat to your friends. This is when most pupils are left to lie down on their arms and wait it out, probably while worrying about their answers.
But for pupils at Rhenish Girls’ High School in Stellenbosch, this is when they take out their wool and knitting needles to create colourful blocks for warm winter blankets.
Pupil Cleo Appies said: “You often see girls leaving hostel with their knitting in their study bags. Knitting becomes part of the Rhenish culture in winter. Mrs [Beth] Smart taught me too and, somehow, knitting almost became cool, because everyone is doing it.”Former Science teacher Regina van Zyl founded the Blanket Assembly project in 1995 and pupils annually knit about 220 blankets.
Glenys Kruger is the head of the project and a life sciences teacher for grades 9, 10 and 12.
“I was not a knitter at all,” Kruger said.
“It’s quite addictive … For addicts it is a good stress reliever obviously. It gets you away from eating and smoking or whatever your addiction is.”
She says the knitting has snowballed and become a family affair.
“It’s grannies and aunties and even my father [is knitting]. He’s a grandpa and it’s helping him as well.”
Pupils teach themselves, learn from others or from their teachers how to knit. The voluntary project sees pupils knit 15cm by 15cm squares which others patch together to create blankets. Pupils have also made beanies in the past.School spokesperson Sharon Hershaw said the school donates the blankets to homeless people, night shelters, old ages homes, farm schools, creches, the ground staff or wherever the school feels there is a need in Stellenbosch as part of their non-profit project.
The school buys the wool in bulk and pupils buy it at cost price from the school.
Kruger said about half of the school’s 730 pupils participate in the project. The school will decide in July who they will donate their blankets to in August this year.
Kruger said new pupils usually roll their eyes when they hear about knitting, but often join in.
“I think it’s because so many girls are doing it that if you don’t do it, you almost feel [left] out. You get swept along by the numbers that are doing it.”Pupil Mandisa Ngabaza said: “It’s like giving back. It’s an opportunity for the girls to give back without too much effort. Mrs [Beth] Smart taught us to knit, in Grade 8, in maths.”
The project has received support on social media as well.
Michele Rawlins Louw said on Facebook: “Awesome idea! Wish we had that idea when we were at school.”
Deborah Key said on Facebook: “What a fabulous idea. Time to de-stress and do some community work at the same time.”
Anelie Van Niekerk said: “I wish every girl learned the basics about needlework at school! Well done Rhenish Girls.”
Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the grade 12 mid-year exams are going well.
“We have not received reports that would worry us … Indications are that progress has been smooth.”

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