BATULI VILLAGE, BAJHANG - It’s two in the afternoon. As the bell rings, signalling the end of lunch break, 11-year-old Lalita Bohara runs to her classroom, opens her notebook, and sits down on a bench along with her classmates while waiting for their teacher.
Amidst the excited chatter of the students, their English subject teacher is cheerfully greeted with “Good afternoon, Sir,” as he enters the classroom. Lalita and the other third grade students immediately start paying attention to him.
“I would have gone hungry had there been no meals on school days,” says Lalita, at dismissal time that day. “The meal helps me pay attention to the teachers while studying.”
At home, Lalita, despite her young age, already helps her mother do a number of chores such as fetching water, cutting vegetables and cleaning the house. On holidays, she also collects firewood – a six-hour journey on foot from her house. Unlike most kids, Lalita prefers to go to school and wishes there were no holidays.
“I don’t like holidays since I have to work at home. I like coming to school because I get to eat haluwa for lunch and learn so many new things. I also enjoy playing with my friends,” she says, while her friends giggle.
Haluwa - a nutritious porridge-like meal consisting of a fortified wheat-soya blend with sugar and vegetable oil is provided to young children during school hours everyday. Because of the meal, children like Lalita are able to continue their studies and receive the nutrition they need, increasing their ability to learn and eventually becoming productive members of their communities when they grow up.
With support from the USDA McGovern-Dole programme, WFP has been helping the Government of Nepal implement its school feeding programme for children in food-insecure areas for several years. Thousands of students from the food-insecure regions of the country, where poverty remains one of the greatest challenges for many families, are benefitting from the school meals.
School Meals Programme
In 2012, more than 38 million meals were served to nearly 192,000 children of 1700 primary schools.
Under the School Support Programme, WFP in collaboration with GIZ, invested in building infrastructure for around 60 schools to promote quality education and improve physical environment for around 10,000 students.
WFP is supporting more than 800 children from eight schools in Doti and Dadeldhura districts with digital learning materials under the laptop programme in partnership with Open Learning Exchange Nepal.
WFP supports the Government of Nepal in implementing the School Meals Programme through Food For Education Project under the Ministry of Education.
“The programme is making a big difference in the community. Many parents have become aware of its educational, health and social benefits,” says Mohan Bahadur Bohara, the school principal.
“These children are able to complete the basic education cycle and the food they eat during lunch time is enriched with vitamins and minerals essential for good health and growth.”
Thanks to the school meals, Lalita, who is one of the top students in her class, is able to focus on her studies, and dreams of something big for her future.
“When I grow up, I want to be a teacher and teach small children like me,” says Lalita, before leaving for her home, a 30-minute walk downhill from the school. “I want my life to be different from the life of my mother.”