New school year, new students, new hope

Our comms officer visits schools in Zambia where students have just begun receiving Mary’s Meals.

Mary Stokes
Mary Stokes
Communications officer, Malawi

Back to all stories | Posted on 1 May 18 in Zoom Into Zambia

The view from Uyoba Primary School in Mambwe district is idyllic. Lush, green leaves – still wet from the previous evening’s downpour – cover the trees surrounding the temporary kitchen built behind the classrooms.

The 942 students enrolled here at Uyoba are among 14,606 pupils in 34 primary schools across the Mambwe and Chipata districts who began receiving Mary's Meals in February 2018.  “The hunger situation in this area is severe,” head teacher, Agnus Mvula, explains. “The community relies on piecework (casual labour), and only the few households with land without animals are able to grow food.”

In Mambwe, food shortages are common. Situated in a valley, the area is highly vulnerable to flooding during the heavy rains of the wet season, and its proximity to a national park means crops are also at risk from elephants and other wild animals. As a result, families often find it difficult to provide food for their children.

In this kind of environment, education is the path to finding secure employment and leaving poverty behind for a brighter future. And the security of a hot, nutritious meal every school day is key to attracting hungry children into the classroom. 

Now, students who used to come to school hungry are finding they have the energy to concentrate and work hard in class, as twelve-year-old Priscilla explains.

A little way up the road, pupils at Yosefe Primary School are also excited about the new porridge being served at their school, and welcome us with dancing and songs written especially for our visit.

Here, poor rains have dampened expectations for a good harvest, and many households now eat just once a day.

“I feel powerful and strong,” ten-year-old Eneless tells me eagerly. “Before I used to be hungry, but now when I eat, I feel good and I am able to learn,” she adds.

Back at Uyoba, as the hot sun rises overhead, I watch the final few afternoon students receive their mug of Mary's Meals porridge and head to class. Already in the final years of their primary schooling, these pupils have had to overcome considerable obstacles to make it this far, and I realise I am more than a little in awe of their determination to succeed. 

“School is important,” eleven-year-old Emmanuel points out to me, “because I want to be able to achieve my goal, and help my family in the future.”

Emmanuel is right, school is important. And now, thanks to Mary’s Meals, he can take a moment to stop worrying about having enough to eat and concentrate instead on the blackboard in front of him.