The children of Badjouma Radier, Cameroon are growing stronger and learning more—and the whole community is rejoicing. More than 2,500 community members gathered at Badjouma Radier Elementary School this month to honor International School Meals Day.

Community members organized the event to celebrate improvements made in the health and education of their children since 2014, when the school began working in partnership with Counterpart’s Food for Education (FFE) program to provide free breakfast and lunch to students.

“When we began with Counterpart, we had only 500 students and just 152 of them were girls—less than 30 percent,” said Djambo Etienne, head teacher at the school. “Today, we have 981 students who attend regularly and more than half of them are girls. Now that children receive meals at school, they can concentrate in class and enjoy learning.”

Badjouma Radier is one of 150 public elementary schools across the North region of Cameroon participating in Counterpart’s program. Drought in the region has exacerbated poverty and limited access to nutritious meals for many families. Without free school meals, many children could not afford to eat at school and were forced to either go hungry in class or not attend.

Bouhari Ibrahima, Deputy Mayor of Pitoa Council, noted that every participating school in the municipality (which includes Badjouma Radier) has shown dramatic improvements in student health and enrollment. These successes have inspired communities to place a higher value on the importance of education, as evidenced by the enthusiasm of the people of Badjouma Radier.

In honor of the celebration, a new water pump was delivered to the community by Secretary General of Cameroon’s North Region Fidele Tegni and U.S. Embassy to Cameroon Cultural Affairs Officer Merlyn Schultz.

Community members performed a cultural dance and a fruit tree planting ceremony before leading a tour of the school campus, highlighting recent infrastructural improvements, including the new borehole and a kitchen, storeroom, and library built through the support of   Counterpart’s program in 2013.

At schools across Cameroon, Counterpart and local partners have helped establish 150 community gardens and built 146 kitchens and storerooms, 42 sets of toilets for boys and girls, 12 boreholes, and five classrooms. Community gardens have already grown 172 metric tons of food, which help complement school meals and creates a sustainable cycle of better health, nutrition, and education for more than 95,800 children.

“Every child deserves a nutritious meal, just like every child deserves an education,” said Desire Yameogo, Country Director of Counterpart International Cameroon. “Communities like Badjouma Radier have seen a real transformation in the health and happiness of their children, and with it, they are now celebrating the value of early education and rejoicing in the hope they feel for their children to grow up strong and educated and to build better lives for themselves, their families, and their community.”

Counterpart’s Food for Education (FFE) program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and works in partnership with the Cameroon Network for Girls Education as well as local Parent Teacher Associations and Student Mother Organizations. To view a video about Badjouma Radier’s International School Meals Day celebration, click here.

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