By Meg Hewitt
Providing children with a nutritious meal at school is fuel for learning in the Bui Division of Northwest Cameroon and has proven one of the most reliable ways to ensure a healthy learning environment.
“Our children previously left for school hungry and often crying. But now they are eager for each new school day to begin. Their happiness makes us proud and very happy to cook for them,” said a volunteer cook at the Tadu Government School.
Impacts on school attendance
The program has had dramatic results. Enrollment at the Tadu Government School increased 40.5 percent for boys and 33.6 percent for girls from 2009 to 2010. Children in Project schools perform better in soccer, handball, athletics and other sporting activities. Two project schools qualified to represent Bui Division at the Regional Schools Sports and Athletic Competition in soccer and long jump.
School feeding started in 2009 supplying 13,542 students per day. As of the end of June, more than 20,500 students per day were benefitting from Counterpart’s school feeding program.
Recognition from abroad
The Tadu Government School, one of the 74 USDA-sponsored Food for Education (FFE) participants, was visited in June by Cameroon’s Ministry of Basic Education, the World Food Program and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization so they could develop a corresponding national school feeding model and strategy in other regions. Counterpart manages the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program at the Tadu Government School.
The delegation, which was met by an enthusiastic crowd of some 500 people, took a tour of some of the project’s accomplishments in the school including a school farm and garden, new toilets, a warehouse and a kitchen. The delegation was most impressed by the parent and teacher participation.
“We formerly did not know how to prepare food for a large number of people, but with the training given to us by the project’s health and nutrition staff, we are now invited whenever there is a major occasion in the village and paid to cook for visiting dignitaries,” one community member shared.
The school gardens and farms also serve as outdoor laboratories for lessons on environmental education and agriculture, which constitute a strong base for project sustainability. The school gardens have generated income for the school through the sales of produce from their gardens and use the money to support other school activities.
“We have learnt a lot from you and shall carry your example elsewhere,” said the leader of the delegation, Madame Alice Montheu. She promised that given the enthusiasm shown by the community in supporting their children’s health and education, she will get the Ministry of Basic Education to personally visit the project and provide further infrastructural support to the school.
Other members of the delegation were equally impressed.
“We had heard so much about this program during our various meetings with partners in Yaounde, what we have witnessed here today is simply marvelous,” observed Richard Temfack, Coordinator of WFP/FAO management committee.