Amani in front of her informal primary school of Galala Albahria school in the remote Tamia district of Fayoum. Copyright: WFP/Photo Library
While most of their elder sisters got married between the ages of 16 and 18, Aya and Amani say they do not want to get married early and want to pursue their education and become doctors. The two girls, aged 9 and 10, joined a school close to their home where WFP implements its school meals programme in cooperation with the government and civil society.
By Shereen Nasef
Tamia, FAYOUM -- Aya and Amani attend the informal primary school of Galala Albahria school in the remote Tamia district of Fayoum. The school is part of the government’s Girls Education Initiative (GEI) that encourages families to send their daughters to school by bringing schools closer to their forgotten areas.
Aya’s mother, Gelnar Shaaban, said that her other six children went to public primary schools but she preferred that Aya joins a GEI school because it is closer to home and she also thinks it is better than public schools.
As for Amani, she might have never been able to get any education if it were not for this government initiative. “Amani doesn’t have a birth certificate; she does not exist as far as the government is concerned,” explains her mother Om Hashem. “She would have never been accepted in a public school and this school was the only option.”
The two girls are among 180,000 students who attend informal GEI and community primary schools in the poorest and most remote areas of Upper Egypt.
WFP school meals benefit more than 360,000 students and their families in the poorest governorates in southern Egypt and Sinai. WFP school meals projects in Egypt encourage girls’ education, help dropouts to go back to school and to complete their primary education and combat child labour. Students of the informal primary schools receive a daily nutritious snack fortified with vitamin A and iron which helps fight short-term hunger and provides needed nutrition. In addition, the students take a monthly food ration of 10 kg of rice for their familis if they attend more than 80 percent of the school days. The take-home ration is almost equivalent to the wage a child would earn if sent to work instead of school and is a major incentive for families to send their children regularly to school.
Aya’s mother is happy with the take-home ration that eases some of the financial burden on the family. The mother is even keen on learning more about good nutrition and would like to attend WFP’s nutrition awareness sessions held at her daughter’s school.