UN World Food Programme

Food For Thought

Nermeen Mostafa finally gets a second chance at education.
Copyright: WFP/Amina Alkorey

Walking into the one-classroom school, one can clearly see the effort exerted by students and their teachers to turn what little space they have into a colorful and lively educational venue. The building consists of a single room that combines a classroom and a bathroom. This is where the students spend their days from 8 in the morning till noon. In this one room, they learn languages, arts and crafts, maths and science.

Teachers have come up with inventive ways to teach different topics, such as a game played with a mini paper ball. The students are broken into two teams and whoever scores a goal asks the other team one of the questions drafted by their teachers. If the answer is correct it counts as one point.

It is in schools like this that WFP Egypt has been working closely to encourage children to receive a very basic education, one that can mean a new life and a way out of the child labour market.

WFP works closely with 2550 one-classroom schools in the most vulnerable areas of eight governorates across Egypt; Beni Suef, Assiut, Sohag, Minya, Fayoum, Giza, Qena and Beheira.  WFP provides daily in-school fortified date bars to help fight short-term hunger and provide children with 25 percent of their daily nutritional needs. In addition, as an incentive for parents to send and keep their children in school, WFP gives a take-home ration of 10 kg of rice to the parents of children with an 80 percent or higher attendance rate.

Thirteen-year-old Shaimaa Mohamed is the day’s leader in the New Village Girl-Friendly School in Fayoum governorate. This means that she gets to help her teachers manage the school for one day. She wears a colorfully designed paper crown that reads “leader of the classroom.” Her voice rises up high as she instructs her peers to break down into their mini working groups. One group works on art, another on fun learning games, a third on Arabic language lessons. Her peers follow her instructions willingly.

Nermeen Mostafa, another student at the school, expressed her joy at finally being able to receive an education.

“I used to help my mum with the household chores and only my brothers went to school. I stayed home because the governmental school is too far from home and my father wouldn’t let me walk all the way by myself,” she explained. “Now with this school opening next to home and with the take-home food rations we get at the end of each month, my father was the one who enrolled me in the school. Every month he comes to pick up the rice and says he has no plans to take me out of the school.”

At the end of every month, parents gather in front of the school to pick up their rice sacks.  Food commodities provided by WFP represent 20-25% of the average monthly expenditure of vulnerable households.

One-classroom schools are established by the Egyptian government in remote and vulnerable rural areas where schools are scarce and many girls cannot access educational establishments due to their distant location, among other reasons. Children of different age groups are allowed to join grade one at the one-classroom schools and start their learning journey.

WFP is providing school feeding to 219,000 children throughout 8 governorates in Egypt, with 65,000 families receiving monthly take-home rations. Supporting a school of 30 students for one year in Egypt costs approximately US$3,020. This includes daily in-school snacks for 22 days per month and monthly take-home rations of rice for 11 months.