Vladimir Chernigov, of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, meets primary schoolchildren in rural Tajikistan. Photo: Azam Bahorov/WFP
“Children represent only 20 percent of our population but they are 100 percent of our future.”
-- Vladimir Chernigov
DUSHANBE - This autumn in Tajikistan, WFP received a visitor from the Russian Federation who wants to make a difference in the lives of the country’s rural schoolchildren. Advisor to the Russian Minister of Agriculture Vladimir Chernigov arrived in the capital to meet with high-level officials in the Ministries of Education, Labour, Agriculture and Social Protection to collaborate on WFP’s school feeding programme. School meals, WFP’s flagship programme in Tajikistan, provides nutritious mid-day meals for some 357,000 students, their teachers and school assistants.
Chernigov spent much of his career focusing on food security and food safety, working extensively on school feeding programmes in Russia.
“Children represent only 20 percent of our population but they are 100 percent of our future,” he says. With funding from the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, Chernigov brings his expertise and commitment to WFP and the rural primary schools of Tajikistan.
Besides meeting with ministry officials, Chernigov accompanied by Alzira Ferreira WFP Country Director visited a primary school in the Yovon district on the second day of his visit. Students eagerly awaited their arrival at the school gate and welcomed them with lepioschka, traditional Tajik flat breat with salt. The students greeted their guests by reciting poems about friendship and the importance of humanitarian assistance between nations.
“It makes me happy that my work in promoting school meals is far from being a wasted effort. It is one of the most important things I can do for the children of this country,” Chernigov said after meeting the students.
Chernigov was introduced to every aspect of school feeding, from the food storage and cooking of the meals to members of the Parent-Teacher Association who explained the challenges they face in keeping the programme running efficiently. To experience school feeding in action, Chernigov and Ferreira visited the school canteen where they ate vegetable soup and bread with the 2nd grade class. “I would love to have such tasty soup every day,” he said. The school cooks could not be happier.
“Seeing the children smile while they eat has renewed my confidence that a school meal is the best investment I can help make in these children,” Chernigov said as he was leaving the school.
Heather Hill, WFP Representative of Swaziland, previously worked in Tajikistan as the Deputy Country Director. A former journalist, she joined WFP in 1998 and was based in Rome and Bangkok from where she acted as WFP spokesperson in major emergencies including Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003) and the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004).