WFP School Meals a Magnet for Class Attendance
Tuesday, March 1st has been observed throughout Africa as Africa Day of School Feeding. The African Union inaugurated the day to recognize school meals as the world’s most widely used safety net with a vital role in education.
The theme of this 7th Africa Day of School Feeding event is: “Nutrition and human capital development in Africa through increased investment in homegrown school feeding”. This year the day recognizes the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nutrition, health, and education of school-age children and on rural livelihoods and food systems.
The majority (80 percent) of African school meals programmes are funded by national governments. In Liberia in recent years, Canada, Mastercard, Sodexo, and other private donors have supported WFP’s school feeding programmes.
On the outskirts of Monrovia, WFP Liberia’s school meals programme is boosting classroom attendance at Wein Town Public School (WTPS), thanks to the Government of the People’s Republic of China for a generous donation of food assistance that has helped to improve students’ enrolment and learning statuses amidst repeated COVID outbreaks in Liberia. According to PTA Chairlady, Velma Clark, students and parent-teacher associations (PTA) have embraced school meals as a “true magnet” to encourage students to go to class.
Student, Lisa of Wein Town Public School. Photo Credit: WFP Liberia/Andy Armah “Today, I am a proud, regular student not missing class anymore, thanks to WFP’s school feeding programme,” said fifth-grade student, Lisa. “When I am hungry and go to school, I sleep in class but when I eat, I don’t sleep throughout,” added Lisa.
The China-funded project provides take-home rations to 55,250 pre-primary and primary school children and their household members in the three counties of Maryland, Nimba, and Montserrado.
Upon receiving school meals – be it in the form of traditional on-site feeding, home-grown school feeding, take-home rations or cash-based transfers – schoolchildren are rejuvenated, show up regularly to class, and enjoy improved learning outcomes, while parents’ burden of providing lunch money lessens.
“This donation aims to improve the nutritional status of vulnerable school children and their families. China looks forward to working with WFP to help ease the current humanitarian crisis in Liberia. I believe that with this program being successfully implemented, many school children and their families will enjoy better nutrition, better health as well as better lives,” said Mr. Li Jiang, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Monrovia.
“We are grateful for this generous contribution from China. The funding came at a critical time at which climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have increased food insecurity in Liberia,” said Hon. Ansu D. Sonii, Minister of Education for the Republic of Liberia.
WFP Liberia’s Country Director, Aliou Diongue, said: “WFP thanks the Government of China for their generous support in providing this safety net for school children in Liberia at a time when they need it most. Most of their families are increasingly concerned about where their next meals will come from. This intervention will help the school children and their families to address the food gap and reduce any adverse impact on their school attendance and learning.”
WFP and the Government through the Ministry of Education are working together to improve school enrolment and attendance in WFP-assisted schools through the provision of daily on-site school meals and monthly take-home ration.
In Liberia, one of WFP’s strategic objectives is to ensure that crisis-affected populations in targeted areas can meet their basic food and nutrition needs during and in the aftermath of crises.
The family take-home rations provided by FP through support from the Government of China aim to do just that, by reducing the impact of the COVID-19 socio-economic shocks on vulnerable school children and their families, helping to ensure that children like Lisa have a chance to reach their full potential.