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Spokesperson for South and East Asia
Marcus Prior, a former journalist, was WFP's East Africa spokesperson before coming to Bangkok in 2010 to head up public relations in South and East Asia.
The school meals distributed at Jonas Oltimbau’s school on northern Tanzania are keeping alive his dreams of becoming a lawyer one day and playing a role in helping his nation move forward.
ENGUIKE -- The maize in the fields around Jonas’s village in the Masai country of northern Tanzania stands blitzed and blighted. The rains have failed, and food is scarce. But there is hope for this 15-year-old at his school, which offers morning porridge and a lunchtime meal to all its students. Learn more about school meals
Before Enguike Primary School started doing this, not one – not a single student – graduated to secondary school. In fact it was a place where students used to go to sleep because they were so hungry.
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Too hungry to learn
“If you came here in those times you would find the children fast asleep because they were so hungry and tired,” George Lowassa, the district school feeding coordinator told me. “Many of them have to walk up to 12 km just to get here – on an empty stomach! Can you imagine?”
All that has changed. In the five years since WFP started providing food to the school and its students, pass rates have steadily risen to the point where 36 of the 38 who sat their secondary exams in 2008 did so successfully.
It means that Jonas’s dream of one day being a lawyer may not be such pie in the sky from a country boy. He is well spoken and confident, with an advocate’s bearing and confidence sewn through his words.
Future as a lawyer
“I want to practice the laws of this country and maintain peace and stability in Tanzania,” he says. You can almost see him admonishing a miscreant from the bench. He tells me there is much less truancy at school now thanks to the meals, and it’s as if he’s been keeping a personal record of the trouble makers.
But for now the reality is a little more mundane. When he gets home this evening, there will be little on the table – some porridge if he is lucky. His parents are farmers and times are tough – the family is battling through to the next harvest two or three months from now.
And he still has those exams to pass. At least the food in his stomach should help him concentrate.