- Title: MALAWI: Feeding program helps keep Malawian children in school
- Date: 14th November 2007
- Summary: VARIOUS OF MEN OFFLOADING SACKS OF MAIZE MEAL FROM A LORRY LORRY DRIVING AWAY
- Embargoed: 29th November 2007 12:00
- Location: Malawi
- Country: Malawi
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes,Education
- Reuters ID: LVA6BPZM5H3N9QPI03T8ITRSJYCQ
- Story Text: For most children, school break is the highlight of the school day.
For many children at Nkolokoti Primary School in Blantyre, southern Malawi, it is the highlight of their whole day. Because at Nkolokoti, break time means porridge time.
For many of these children, this is the only decent meal they will get all day. So they savour every spoon of their porridge, or 'Phala' as it's called here.
Made of maize flour, the porridge contains added vitamins, milk, sugar and salt.
The meal is making a huge difference to performance of children at Nkolokoti.
"Before we started getting porridge I could not concentrate in class but since I started eating it, I am always here and I work hard in class," said David Jali, a student at the school.
Schools in Malawi have huge numbers of children attending. Facilities and teachers are limited and those who do not perform well risk falling behind or falling out of school altogether.
When the feeding program started here a year ago, there were an incredible 7,000 students at the school. Now there are 8,000 and even more are expected to join.
"At first our enrolment was low but as of now it is increasing rapidly because of this system of 'Phala'. We had a lot of dropouts at first but for now more pupils are coming," said Grace Chilalire, deputy head teacher at the school.
Some classes are held outdoors. But teachers say what matters is that overall student performance has improved ever since the children started eating at break time.
The porridge is donated by an NGO called 'Mary's Meals'. The organization also set up this kitchen at the school and donated utensils and these special pots that conserve energy. The porridge is prepared in turns by parents, who work for free.
"We chose to do it because our children go to this school.
We get together to cook for them for free - nobody pays us a thing," said Esnart Ngalande, a parent.
'Mary's Meals' is a Scottish organization that provides meals around the world. They began operations in Malawi in 2002. Right now they distribute maize meal to 100 schools in the south of the country - feeding a quarter of a million children.
"If they stop this program, it will be disaster. It has now become a tradition here for children to come to school knowing they will eat.
Their parents are so relieved and not worried," said George Malunga, headteacher at Nkololoti.
Malawi is currently producing a maize surplus and is even exporting and in some cases even donating maize to neighbouring countries. But in the south of the country, many people haven't recovered from the drought of 2005 - the worst in ten years - and are still suffering from food shortages.
'Mary's Meals' plans on spreading its services across the country. For now, these children won't have to worry about their next meal but unless the feeding program is made sustainable, or becomes a government prerogative, the future of school meals like these is not guaranteed.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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