Translated by Menno Ernst
P-au-P, Tuesday 15th May 2007 [AlterPresse] --- In Carrefour-Feuilles, in the south-east of Port-au-Prince, the expenses of heads of households on feeding the children progressively reduce during the years in school, notably because of a school canteen program established in this area, according to testimonies collected by the on-line press agency AlterPresse.
At the parish school Saint-Gérard more than 1 500 students benefit from a plan supported by the United Nations through the World Food Programme (WFP). According to nun Yola Norélus, educational headmistress of this school, this is already satisfying hundreds of mothers and fathers of poor families.
« They don't have to worry, because they know that their children get enough to eat at school", declares sister Yola Norélus at AlterPresse.
The « school canteen programme » of WFP lies within the scope of efforts, recommended by the United Nations, to promote universal education through its Millennium Development Goals.
To have a global idea of this project, about to be implemented in the northern, north-eastern, western department and in Artibonite, the agents of the United Nations in Haiti have organized, on 14th May 2007, a guided visit in Carrefour Feuilles, where a dozen of Haitian journalists will take part in.
Decently sitting in their classrooms, the pupils receive, one after the other, a hot meal : a plate of rice, mixed with red peas and salmon sauce. Only a small contribution is demanded in exchange of this free offered food.
« We only ask them one Haitian gourde a day", clarifies Sister Norélus.
« We are very satisfied. The proposed allowance at schools and at health centres, as well as the preparation criteria are respected", declares Darline Jeanty, the attendance agent of the project, proudly.
In Haiti, the United Nation's school canteen programme is of assistance to approximately 290 000 pupils at primary school level, of whom children living in the most vulnerable and difficult areas of the four above-mentioned departments.
The St-Gérard school in Carrefour Feuilles represents about 700 school institutions who benefit from the program.
« Since 6 years we receive assistance from the World Food Programme. We are very pleased about it", continues the nun, encircled by journalists.
In the Haitian school establishments (private as well as public), the classrooms are overflowed. Schoolboys and schoolgirls are piled up like sardines, which makes it sometimes impossible for them to receive education.
The situation is the same at the parish school Saint-Gérard. 180 children meet every day in a classroom originally constructed to receive 80 pupils.
« The classrooms are too full, at the moment we're working on a project to clear the classrooms", explains the educational headmistress of the school, which offers pre-school and primary education.
For the next academical meeting of 2007-2008, the direction of St-Gérard School, that counts at present 11 classrooms, is planning to open a third basic cycle, secondary education, next to the other two (pre-school and primary).
Sister Yola Norélus adds that the entrance demands to this school establishment are increasing by the day.
"The WFP is our only partner, we haven't received any help from the state so far", indicates the educational headmistress.
On the other hand, she says, the students are required to pay an annual fee of more than 1 000 gourdes.
"With these school fees, we organize the payment of teachers, the supervisors, the caretaker, the maintenance of the school and the acquisition of educational goods", she announces.
Across this school canteen programme, the United Nations are making an effort to support the access to education and to reduce the inequality between sexes, especially by acquiring new skills. In Haiti, according to statistics, approximately 500 000 children have no basic schooling at all.
By decreasing hunger in the short run without favouring the use of micronutrition, the food aid at schools encourages school frequentation. And, according to the United Nations, the school food programme guarantees a skill improvement of the staff on the level of education and school health. [do rc apr May 15 th, 2007 11:00]
Djems Olivier [AlterPresse]