School meals prevent children from going hungry on a daily basis. Over time, this can make a big difference. In primary school, Joseph Steven received countless meals through the World Food Programme's (WFP) school feeding programme. Now a student and soon-to-be graduate of medical school, Joseph reflects on the support that helped get him to where he is now.
July 2015 will be a memorable month for the Steven family from the Chikwawa district in southern Malawi. Their second-born in a family of five will be graduating with a Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science degree from the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine.
Twenty-four-year-old Joseph Steven happens to be one of the hundreds of thousands of students who have benefitted from WFP’s school feeding programme which began in Malawi in 1999. Joseph started receiving daily meals at school in 2004 when he was in Standard seven at Makanga Full Primary School in Chikwawa.
School Meals Strengthen Education and Enrolment
School feeding really helped me and my schoolmates because we got meals when our parents couldn’t provide them and we were able to concentrate in class. When the programme started, enrolment immediately increased as parents knew that meant their children would have something to eat at school.”
"None of us could go home in between classes because of the distance," says Joseph. "That was before school meals were served so we just went hungry."He explains that the start of WFP's school feeding programme at his school coincided with preparations for their Primary School Leaving Certificate. With hard work, determination, and a full stomach, Joseph passed the exam and was accepted at Blantyre Secondary School which is one of the best national secondary schools in Malawi.
“I used to leave home as early as 5:20 to reach school in time for 6:00 examinations,” he recalls. “I didn’t have enough time to eat breakfast.” None of us could go home in between classes because of the distance. That was before school meals were served so we just went hungry.”
When introduced, school feeding made a big difference for Joseph and the other students. In one of the most food insecure districts in Malawi and in communities where many families were living on the brink of poverty, school meals offered a real life-line.
“Once school feeding started, many parents sent their children to school because it meant that the parents had one less meal to provide for the children each day,” he says.
Hard Work And Determination Pays Off
While school meals helped Joseph to remain in school, his commitment and desire to excel set him on the path to success.“I knew all of my hard work had paid off when I was selected to attend the University of Malawi,” he says. “I wanted to help those less fortunate than myself so that inspired me to choose a medical career.”
Joseph plans to specialise in microbiology and hopes to open his own laboratory one day.
In his spare time, Joseph mentors fellow students at his alma mater, Makanga Full Primary School. He is set to become the school’s first ever graduate of the University of Malawi.