Schoolchildren in the community of Gorgadji, in Dori province, benefit from daily meals provided by WFP's school meals programme. Copyright: WFP/Malek Triki
In the community of Gorgadji, many more students make the long trek to school every morning now that they receive two hot meals a day. WFP's school meals programme encourages enrolment, especially for girls, and allows students to concentrate better in class.
GORGADJI—The hardships of endemic poverty, combined with the vagaries of climate change, have resulted, during the last few years, in recurrent food crises which have made it very difficult for peasant families in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso to send their children to school.
Enrolment rates are among the lowest in the country, and the disparity between boys and girls remains high.
Intent on helping address this crucial schooling problem, WFP has, since 2005, supported the Burkina Government’s education initiatives by providing free meals to 87,425 students in all 640 public primary schools in this region.
‘Now I have 82 students in my class!’
In the Gorgadji community, most students walk long distances to school without having had anything to eat. However, they do make the daily journey with a remarkable regularity, secure in the knowledge that porridge will be in wait for them in the morning and a hot meal at midday.
“Before the start of WFP’s school feeding programme, parents were reluctant to enrol their children,” said Salam, a teacher at Gorgadji. “Now, I have 82 students in my class. When the meals stop because of a lack of resources, there are many dropouts.”
Not only do these meals provided by WFP encourage students to stay in school, they also increase their concentration during class.
“Thanks to the school meals, I am now well fed and able to stay at school at midday and to review my lessons,” said 14-year old student Ousmane Dicko. “If I am hungry I will not hear what the teacher says, nor see what is written on the blackboard.”
‘No school meals, no school’
To encourage girls to attend school, WFP distributes 10 kg of dry food take-home rations each month to the 98 girls in the last two classes. Rations are also given to several mothers who take on the role of raising awareness in the community about the benefits of education, especially for girls.
“I thank WFP for its support, which enables many of my girl friends to attend school regularly. I encourage them to work hard in order to have a good situation later on,” said Kady Estelle Compaoré, 10, who benefits from the girls’ rations. “I appeal to the goodwill of people who can help Gorgadji, which has problems with water, electricity and school desks for children.”
“If there were no school meals, there would simply be no school, because some parents are totally in need,” said Mahamad Djibril Cissé, a member of the Gorgadji parents’ association. “But thanks to WFP, and with God willing, the future decisions-makers will come from our children’s generation. Our wish is that WFP continues to feed our children, thus helping them to secure a better future.”
Celestine Ouedraogo is the Programme Assistant for Basic Education activities in Burkina Faso, as well as the Public Information focal point and the Walk the World focal point. Before joining WFP in 1998, Celestine worked for CEAO (West African Economic Organisation, currently UEMOA) and UNHCR.