This Women’s Month, the World Food Programme (WFP) highlights the important role that educators play in the success of the School Meals project. Elementary school teachers Giselle and Wilma have both seen and contributed to the positive effects of the project.
In the conflict-affected areas of Central Mindanao, WFP provides hot and nutritious meals to over 60,000 children each school day, allowing students to focus on their studies rather than their empty stomachs. But school meals don’t just fill stomachs – they help keep students in school for a chance to maximize their opportunities to obtain an education. This is where one of the project’s key stakeholders, the teachers, come into play. As the saying goes, “A student is only as good as his/her teacher.”
Giselle, a teacher in Maguindanao, monitors students during a test, ready to clarify any questions.
A Noble Profession
Giselle and Wilma have been teachers for 20 and 13 years respectively, yet they still recall what ignited their passion for the job. “It’s the children living in less fortunate communities who inspired me to become a teacher,” said Giselle, who works at Tenongol Elementary School in Upi, Maguindanao. “When you get to know them and see what they can do, you’re able to connect with them and in turn learn how to guide and teach them.”
Wilma always wanted to be a teacher: “Even when I was just a little girl, I dreamt of becoming a teacher. I grew up wanting to teach prospective learners and providing them with the same experience I had in school as a child. It’s truly a noble profession.”
Wilma always wanted to be a teacher. She teaches Math, English, History and other subjects.
Despite loving the job, the two multi-subject teachers admit there are challenges. “I always want to do my job to the best of my abilities and to do it the right way, and that takes time whether it’s creating a lesson plan or the visual aids that go along with it,” said Giselle. Both also have difficulties traveling to and from their schools on bad roads and in adverse weather conditions.
Still their love for their students and teaching brings Wilma and Giselle back to the classroom. “We need to give this profession everything we can,” Giselle added. “Having taught a student who comes from a less-fortunate family, my greatest achievement is to see them now as a successful working professional.”
Wilma with some of her students as they enjoy their hot, nutritious meals at Banisilon Central Elementary School, Lanao del Norte.
School Meals Impact
WFP has worked with the Department of Education and local schools to provide school meals for more than ten years. Both teachers recall how the project has improved their student’s performance in the classroom. “We used to have a lot of kids who were malnourished, so they didn’t have the strength or they weren’t healthy enough to come to class,” said Giselle. “A number of them would only be in school for half of the day then after their morning classes, they would go home and miss the rest of their lessons due to hunger and sickness.”
Giselle shows a spoonful of beans and vegetables served as part of the nutritious school meal her students receive.
When the project was implemented here at Banisilon Central School, it didn’t take long before we observed that our students were more energetic. Their attendance, participation and grades have greatly improved,” said Wilma.
The overall performance of participating schools has improved too, with Banisilon Central School’s National Achievement Test progressively increasing and Upi Elementary School reaching the top spot in the achievement test throughout the entire district.
Story by Anthony Chase Lim, with inputs from WFP Philippines programme officers, Fahima Abdulaziz and Marilou Cezar.