Haiti: Rice And Beans Keep Kids In School

Pupils at St. Pierre's school in Gonaives

Copyright: WFP/David Orr

Angelica Richard, who one day would like to be a doctor, says she had no breakfast before coming to school and won’t get anything when she goes home tonight. “This is my only meal of the day. Sometimes I feel weak in the morning and can’t wait till lunchtime.”

GONAIVES -- Angelica, aged nine, and two of her siblings live with her grandmother in Gonaives because their mother can’t afford to look after them. Two uncles, who live in the USA, occasionally send money to help the family out.

Life is hard but one thing easing the strain is the lunch served every day to Angelica and her classmates at their desks in the Ecole St. Pierre Claver. View photo gallery

Hurricane hit town

Life for many families in Gonaives got even harder last September. Many lost everything in the hurricane which devastated the town. Today, diggers and dump trucks are still removing the mud. The main street remains water-logged and piled with garbage. Some families are living in makeshift shelters of plastic sheeting on the sites of their former homes.

In these conditions, sending kids to school would not be a priority unless parents knew that the children would at least get a meal that way.

"Always hungry"

“To be honest”, says M.me Guerlene Dormeus, the teacher who has just dished out the meal at the back of the classroom, “we’d have to close the school if it weren’t for the daily meal. They’re always hungry. Still, they sometimes save some of their meal in a container to bring home for a younger brother or sister”.

In all, 36,829 primary school children in 100 schools in Gonaives are receiving daily meals with the help of WFP.

Difficult to study

At the Ecole St. Francois d’Assise, Jennifer (9), Woodjina (7) have just had rice with beans, vegetables and processed meat. The nuns who run the school provided the meat and vegetables. Without the daily meal, says one of the nuns, the children just couldn’t study properly.

“I’m glad we get food at school”, says Jennifer, “because sometimes there’s nothing to eat at home”. Jennifer says she’d like to be a teacher when she grows up. Woodjina thinks she’d like to be a nun.