What if Every Desk Was Filled?

By Alissa Sandoval, World Vision’s HungerFree Team

For sixteen years of my life I had the same routine. I woke up and I went to school. As a child, learning was my job. After 1st Grade, I went to 2nd Grade, then 3rd and 4th and so on and so forth until graduating from university. Learning was my routine – one that I often took for granted because it was culturally expected. As a necessity, it was never questioned. For sixteen years I got to dream about what I wanted to be when I grew up. However, for millions of children this is not a reality.

For millions of children living in poverty, education is considered a luxury not a necessity. Helping their families get food on the table is the primary focus and education becomes secondary. So much so that many children don’t make it past primary school. In impoverished areas of Mozambique, parents take their children out of school and have them focus generating income for the family. Because unlike a first world country, learning is not a child’s job. World Vision noticed this pattern and figured out how to meet a family’s need for food while also meeting a child’s need for education.

FOOD SECURITY Micaela,7, is planting rice in the farm of her parents after the floods having desvasted many houses and farms. Micaela is a sponsored child and her father is a member of a farm association called Nova Jerusalem (New Jerusalem) and it was created by WV in Namacurra ADP. In this association Micaela s father learnt the agricultural techniques that are now applied to recover the lost products due to the floods that started on January 13th, can be seen water left by the rain. Micaela and her sisters Bete,12,Ceninha,10, and her friend Mearca like to help their parents in the farm especially on Saturdays. Micaela loves seeing her feet in the mud.

In hopes of better understanding how World Vision helps keep children in school I sat down with Craig Geddes, World Vision International’s Global Literacy Program Manager for the Education and Life Skills Team. He lived and worked in Mozambique for two years, as the Food For Education Program Manager. As a part of their program, they introduced take home rations to the most vulnerable children in the program and the response was incredible.

“We saw a number of children, who were from female, or no male headed households, that were not attending school because they were either taking care of younger siblings or became the head of the household. Or because they were out working in the field,” Craig explained.

The ability to learn was out weighed by a need to put food on the table.

“What we found with the take-home ration that we gave out, was that it was a supplement to the family that would feed three or four people within the family.”

The take home ration was usually a mix of a corn, soy blend with legumes. This food helped take the burden of feeding another mouth for families away and, in the process, changed the parent’s or head of household’s perspective of education.

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“[The take-home rations] gave the child not only a reason to come to school, but an opportunity for the parent to say, ‘this child attending school is beneficial enough to us that it is critical that she/he attends school.”

Allowing education to fall as a primary need in a child’s life.

“While you would hope a parent would see the benefit of education just within the benefits that education would give them. We often think about it from a first world perspective of, ‘of course my child should attend school, they’re learning.’ But if we take ourselves to a rural Mozambican community and there’s no food on the table, food acquisition is the primary need.

“Looking at the take-home ration, we saw a big increase in attendance and parental support for education when we had that take-home ration initiated within the household. It was not only helping feed the child attending but also their siblings. So, education was seen as a critical piece.”

These children were able to take the rations home and share them with their families, and also have food to eat for themselves at home! So when that child came to class the next day, they were attentive, more engaged and learning more than when they didn’t have enough food on the table at home.

EDUCATION Children from Neuala and from the neighbors communities study in this school which was built by WVUK. From grade one to six students study in conventional classrooms to protect themselves from cold, wind and the grade seven students are study in precarious ones. This school has reduce about 40kilomiters that the children from grade 6 to 7 had walk to find school in the past.

“‘Education is the most powerful weapon in the world,’ is what Nelson Mandela said. Education changes lives, it changes the trajectory of children and families. It is the stepping stone out of poverty. Without education you cannot succeed in this world very well. My passion with education is to make sure that children are able to receive what often times their parents didn’t. I believe our Education Programing is the best way to show we want to do something sustainable and we want to do something that will change the trajectory within certain communities and countries.”

Nelson Mandela is right, education is the most powerful weapon in the world. Education is a stepping stone out of poverty and into a hungerfree world. A lack of food should not stand in the way of making education a part of a normal routine. If take-home rations were introduced to every food for education program, I wonder how drastically classroom attendance would improve. Schools all around the world, filled with classrooms where every desk and belly are filled with bright eyed brimming potential because they had enough to eat. This is what part of a hungerfree world looks like. Join us, and people like Craig, as we continue to push for bright-eyed, hungerfree potential in every classroom around the world.

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