Tunisian actress Hend Sabry talks with Dina, an 11-year-old girl from Upper Egypt who's taken advantage of school meals to become the star of her class. Copyright: WFP/Reem Nada
On her first outing as a WFP Ambassador Against Hunger, Tunisian filmstar Hend Sabry visited schools in Upper Egypt to meet girls who take part in a WFP-supported school meals programme. One of them was a high-flier who said her education wouldn’t even be possible without food aid.
FAYOUM – Hend Sabry gave a special pat on the back to 11-year-old Dina, who has shown startling progress in the two years since she started coming to the school in her town. Teachers say she caught up with her peers and then zoomed past many of them, becoming one of the best students in her class.
Despite her intelligence, the main reason why Dina is studying now is the 10 kg of rice that her family takes home every month if she attends school regularly.
A powerful incentive
"For a long time, my father didn't want me to go to school. He was afraid, because it is not close to home, and there are a lot of cars on the way. He also needed my help with the livestock,” Dina said.
“He couldn’t say no when he found out about the rice, but he still reminds me to be careful crossing the street.” Like many of the other girls in her school, Dina’s family is entitled to a monthly rice ration as long as she comes to school at least 85 percent of the time. Thanks to WFP and the government, Dina also gets a nutritious date-bar every day at lunch.
WFP supports the national school meals programmes in 11 of Egypt's 29 governorates in the poorest parts of the country. Many parents in these regions see sending their daughters to school as a financial burden. Instead of investing in education, many prefer for them to marry young.
To promote equal learning opportunities, the WFP-assisted Girls Education Initiative offers families food as an incentive to keep their daughters in school. In many parts of Egypt, it also serves as a deterrent to child labour. Roughly 400,000 people in the country benefit from the school meals scheme.
“I know that the girls aren’t just here to study, but it was obvious how dedicated they are to their school work and how much they love their teacher,” said Sabry. “I’m proud to be here to see what a positive effect this programme has on the girls’ lives.”