Dutch company PostNL has been supporting WFP's school meals programme in Malawi since 2004 - not only through funding but also by sending project managers to oversee the construction of schools. PostNL executives recently visited Malawi to see the programme in action.
MANYEGA, Malawi - In this flat and arid farming region in the heart of southern Malawi, Namitoso Primary School is a source of local pride. Its students are benefitting from nutritious daily meals from WFP porridge - and also from a shared spirit to succeed.
"Sometimes I come to school without having breakfast," said Blessings Makuda, who is finishing his last year at Namitoso. Instead of thinking about where he will get his next meal, however, he dreams of one day becoming a doctor.
"By taking porridge at school I can tell it improves my health because I rarely get ill," he says. "I’m now in school every day."
Groups of women from surrounding villages prepare the morning meals for Namitoso's 1,000 students. The meal consists of porridge made with SuperCereal, a vitamin-packed, corn-soya blend, supplied by WFP.
PostNL support to WFP
The initiative is supported by PostNL, a Netherlands-based mail, parcel and e-commerce company that publishes a popular cookbook each year, Master Chefs for Home Chefs, featuring the recipes of celebrity chefs. The proceeds, along with other PostNL funding, go towards WFP's school meals programme through their 'Moving the World' partnership.
PostNL also sends employees to work as project managers, overseeing school construction projects and lending support to programme management.
“Globally, there's increasing evidence on school feeding’s impact on access to food and to education, especially for children from poor households. More can be done however, and we look for increasing partners like PostNL,” said WFP Representative Coco Ushiyama.
"I'm really proud that my company and WFP are supporting the advancement of education in Malawi through school feeding,” said Nienke Nijhuis, who has been overseeing the construction of a school kitchen at Namitoso. "The kids who are in school today could become future leaders. And who knows? Maybe the next president of Malawi will come from Namitoso Primary School."
On a recent visit, Marielle van Spronsen, the PostNL manager of the WFP partnership, echoed these sentiments.
“While visiting the communities, I could tell that our support really is appreciated and that the money is well spent.”
“It’s nice to know that my company is helping to make a life-changing impact for school children in Malawi.”
Namitoso is one of almost 700 schools in Malawi receiving WFP support. The programme targets some of the country's poorest districts where enrolment is low and dropout rates high. Studies show that school meals help improve concentration and encourage daily attendance, contributing to improved education overall.
Most Namitoso children grow up to work alongside their parents, who are mostly smallholder farmers relying on maize farming to earn a living despite unpredictable weather. The students may have alternative prospects, however, as an impressive 90 percent of students passed their final exams last year and became eligible to enter secondary school.
"Enrolment has increased, pass rates have improved and attendance is much better," said teacher Vuto Chikoko, who credits WFP school meals for the changes. "The community sees the benefits of the programme and is grateful that their children have the opportunity to succeed."