Imagine walking for two hours to get to school. And then walking two more hours to get home again. Whether slogging through mud in the brief but intense rainy season or travelling under the heat of a blazing hot sun, kids in a small Ethiopian farming community make the daily trek with a spring in their step. Their energy levels are high.
This seems a little out of place in Tigray, a northern province in Ethiopia plagued by droughts, where there never seems to be enough food to go around.
But the taste of change is being ladled out at their school.
Students at the Abrha We Atsbaha school (named for two ancient Christian emperors) have an extra incentive to be on time, pay attention in class, and not drop out . . . there is a hot meal waiting for them.
School Feeding in Ethiopia
With Canada's support, the World Food Programme (WFP) provides each child with 150 grams of carbohydrates and protein-a corn and soybean blend cooked into a porridge with salt and vegetable oil-every day. The school-feeding program brings in so many children from the surrounding community-1,500 in all-that they are divided into morning and afternoon shifts. The children bring their own drinking water with them everyday.
Although it is a public school (primary school-grades one to eight-is free in Ethiopia), the community pitches in for resources that aren't provided by the government. They also make decisions about what goes on at the school. After a recent fundraising drive, they started construction on an additional classroom. And they pay for the cook and the firewood for the daily, nutritious meal that the kids get. Once the jerry cans of oil and the containers of the corn and soybean blend are empty, the school can sell them to earn a little more income.