KARAGA - Mariama lives in Karaga in Ghana’s deprived Northern Region and is the first of her father’s nine children. In 2011, she had to repeat a year at her school, Karaga Junior High.
Staying in School
With resources spread thin over two wives and many children, normally this would have been more than enough reason for her father to withdraw her from school. But, according to Mariama, her father, who is a subsistence farmer, kept her in school because of the food rations she takes home at the end of each month.
“He even bought me a pair of socks on Ghana’s Independence Day,” she said. “This is not common in my home, especially for someone in my position and this is all thanks to the food rations I take home.”
Dealing with Shocks
Take-home rations are an additional source of income for families and particularly useful during the lean season when food is expensive and scarce.
Girls like Mariama are given 8 kilograms of maize, 2 litres of oil and 1 kilogram of iodized salt if they are in school for at least three-quarters of the month.
The take-home rations also help families deal with external shocks. Mariama says that in 2011 when her father’s farm was flooded, the food helped her family cope with the crisis.
Peace at Home
But above all, Mariama feels the take-home ration programme has brought peace to her home.
Mariama’s mother, Memunatu, who collects the ration on her daughter’s behalf, earns very little from the oranges she sells at the Karaga Primary School.
Before Mariama began receiving take-home food rations, her mother and stepmother often quarreled over food. But once the food started coming in, the arguments lessened. Both Mariama and her mother receive a lot more respect at home and in the community. She feels the programme has contributed to a calmer atmosphere at home and provided her a sound mind to study.
“I’ve always enjoyed going to school, but with WFP’s take home rations, my mother too can enjoy it as much as I do,” Mariama said.
The take home ration programme was started in northern Ghana in 1999 and has been cited as a major reason why two of the regions covered under the programme, the Upper East and the Upper West, were the first in Ghana to attain gender parity in their schools.