Charles Phiri (13) wants to be a doctor when he grows up so he can help his family and community. (Copyright: WFP/Jane Chirwa)
Poverty not only restricts children’s physical and mental development, it also limits their ability to dream and imagine a better life for themselves. WFP - through the daily hot meals provided by the Home Grown School Feeding Programme - is helping almost one million school children across Zambia. This regular and nutritous meal satisfies grumbling tummies while allowing children to focus on the essentials of learning.
Charles Phiri (13) is a grade-eight student at Chawama Community Orphans Basic Education and Skills Training (COBET) School in the capital, Lusaka. Charles says he wants a job that will uplift not only his life but also his family, community and country.
“When I grow up I want to be a doctor so I can financially support my mother and help my community when they are sick,” he says.
An avid football fan and player, Charles feels he is growing up too fast and doesn’t have enough time to enjoy the game with his friends.
“Before I go to school I must draw water from a communal tap while my younger brother cleans the dishes,” he says. “When I get home after school I usually clean the house because my sister is ill and can’t help me.”
Charles remembers being at COBET School before the WFP School Feeding Programme started. He says he was often hungry at school as well as at home when food was limited – he would sometimes have to ask a friend for something to eat. .
“If you are hungry, you stay hungry,” he says. “Sometimes my mother was able to d give me some money to buy a Freezit (an ice lolly).”
He says that school meals make a real difference to children.
“The food from WFP gives us energy and also helps us to concentrate in school”, he says. “But if the food stops, we’ll be weak and fail to learn well.”
Fellow COBET School student Ruth Phiri (no relation to Charles) also dreams of a bright future and enjoys coming to school.
“I want to be a nurse when I grow up because I want to help sick people get well again,” she says. “I want to be helpful to my community.”
Ruth lives with her grandmother who looks after five other children. Her grandmother is a small-scale trader but her business is not doing too well so she has to rely on relatives for support. Of the children, only three can go to school. Ruth is very grateful to be one of them.
COBET School provides an education to about 1,000 orphans and vulnerable children within Lusaka’s Chawama compound. Here, pit latrines and communal tapes are the norm. Most residents live below the poverty line, surviving on less than a dollar a day.
WFP has been providing meals to COBET pupils since 2003.
Jane Chirwa joined WFP Zambia as an intern in May 2011. She holds a diploma in journalism from the Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka. Jane has previously worked as a reporter, a communications officer and a human rights activist.