PORT-AU-PRINCE -- There’s a party at the Ecole Bethlehem de Rigaud in Croix des Bouquets, just on the eastern outskirts of Port-au-Prince. About 400 kids are gathered in the schoolyard, there’s music pumping, girls are in their prettiest dresses, boys are chasing each other, teachers are trying to restore order.
It looks like a normal school fete, if it weren’t for the fact that buildings on every block of the neighbourhood have been reduced to rubble in the January earthquake, and many of these children no longer have a safe home, and haven’t attended classes since the disaster.
Rice and beans
The reason for the excitement is simple: a plate of rice and beans for each child. WFP, together with the local NGO PNG, started distributing cooked meals in schools in the Port-au-Prince area at the end of February.
The programme will last two months and will soon reach about 72,000 children in 148 schools. Ecole Bethlehem was damaged in the quake and the building is inaccessible, but the schoolyard has been declared safe and the kitchen and toilet are still functioning, which is why the project was able to go ahead.
For the next two months, on weekdays children will receive alternating meals of rice and beans and fortified porridge.
Meal time signal
A speaker at a microphone plays a catchy tune and explains to the children that when they hear it in the neighbourhood, they should come to the school because it means that meals are being prepared.
Unlike WFP’s traditional school meals, which function in conjunction with teaching activities, these lunches take place while classes have not yet resumed in Port-au-Prince. They are open to all school-aged children in the neighbourhood, even those who were not enrolled in the education system before the earthquake. This could attract children into the school environment who might otherwise not have gone there – and hopefully will encourage them to stay when classes resume.
(Photo inset by Fama Diouf)