NAIROBI – John Kufuor visited the Masai village of Mailua last week to see a school meals programme which after being run for years by WFP is now so well established and so valued that the government has agreed to take it over.
In Mailua, as in many parts of Africa and the developing world, school meals act as an important nutritional ‘safety net’. At the same time, by attracting kids to school, they help to secure an education for children from even the poorest families.
Kufuor knows well the value of school meals programmes, having championed their implementation in his own country during his time as president. He's particularly convinced of their importance for girls, who are frequently the first to be pulled out of education.
Educate a nation
“A wise man in Ghana once said: you educate a man, you are educating an individual, but you educate a woman, and you are educating a nation,” he said during his visit to Mailua.
“Why? Because this woman will become a mother and as an educated, informed mother most likely she will see to the proper education and upbringing of her children.”
While in Kenya, Kufuor also visited Kibera, one of Africa's biggest slums, where WFP runs another school meals programme. As an Ambassador Against Hunger for WFP, Kufuor advocates specifically for WFP’s school meals programmes and for proper nutrition for children in schools. The Kenya trip, which followed a brief visit to Ethiopia, was his first experience in the field with WFP. See photo gallery of trip to Ethiopia
Breaking world records
Kufuor was joined on the trip to Mailua by Kenyan athlete Paul Tergat, also a WFP Ambassador against Hunger (see photo above left, by Rose Ogola). Tergat is equally aware of the importance of school meals having received them himself as a poor kid in Kenya’s Baringo district before growing up to win marathons and break world records in long distance running events.
“We have to make sure we give an opportunity to our children,” Tergat told the villagers gathered under the midday sun. “Our future lies in our education – we will never make any meaningful change in our lives without education.”
As part of its ‘home grown’ school meals initiative, WFP is handing over responsibility for school meals in certain parts of the country. The move is a demonstration of the government’s commitment to school meals, even at a time when parts of the country are suffering the effects of the worst drought in living memory.
The arrival of the rains has laced the countryside with a green tinge, but while pasture may be regenerating and cattle growing slowly stronger, many people are still struggling to put enough food on the family table.