In each and every educational institution, providing basic needs is paramount to enabling the basic function of learning. This is the true everywhere although the way such is implemented varies from place to place. One of the most basic needs that must be met is provision of food to learners to fuel them.
Over the course of last few years as we have been working on WTA projects, we have identified this need as crucial to enabling the schools to achieve success in providing education. Normally in all other schools in Kenya this responsibility falls on the parents. They are tasked with proving a packed lunch for their kids or the schools can organize for a meal paid for by the parents through school fees. However as we build schools in rural poor areas, especially those in dry areas, we find that parents cannot always provide all the meals as normal and hence some kids have gone without food during the day and only having one meal at home in the evening and sometimes it is so bad when the harvest is devastated by drought that kids may not eat for the whole day. This is mostly prevalent in the periods before harvest comes in or when there is little output from the farms most families live on.
Since most families rely on subsistence farming and working in farms around the community, the resources are scarce. Thus the school administrators have identified provision of food through a school-wide program as a way to mitigate the negative effects of these hard times such absent-ism and more vulnerabilities kids have that interrupt the learning.
The challenge of execution
Although we have identified this need as something crucial especially during the earlier years as the communities were settling in and rebuilding their livelihoods, there was not a lot we could do. Feeding program can be very expensive and can also create unhealthy reliance on donor support to providing such as basic need. The communities and WTA did not have a suitable solution to this recurring problem and although the communities are doing better this year, their fortunes are reliant on the weather in any particular year.
VICDA (our partner organization) has been trying some alternatives with help of other organizations although they were not proper solutions to the problem because it only solved the problem for just a short period of time. However in the last year an experimental-at first- approach was tried though creating a school farm to grow the crop foods needed and in areas that require irrigation proving the knowledge and capability to grow food all the year round irrespective of the rain patterns.
After evaluating this approach, we believe it is viable and can be sustainable in the long run. WTA wants to partner with project schools to help establish school farms to provide food for a meal during the day. From the short periods where a lunch is provided we can see consistent and high attendance in schools and the morale remains high throughout the day.
Some schools and communities have already some arrangement of sorts and some like our first school Shalom Primary school are running their small farms already as I have previously reported.