The Malawian government introduced free primary education in 1994. In the first year after the policy change, primary school enrollment in Malawi tripled, from 1.6 million, to over 3 million students. Although primary school enrollment increased, there are still high dropout rates due to levels of poverty within local communities, a national shortage of classrooms, and a lack of qualified teachers to deal with the huge increase in students. For those who do attend school, many go on empty stomachs. This not only affects their health, but also their concentration levels and performance in class, and contribute to the number of children dropping out of school.
In reaction to this challenge, Determined to Develop initiated a school-feeding program after consultation with local chiefs and members of the community. A study conducted by the American Journal of Nutrition in 2012 found that Malawians who participated in a feeding program had better cognitive ability and a greater amount of muscle growth than other Malawians after one year. There was also a greater attendance rate at the primary school with the feeding program and a lower dropout rate. The school-feeding program provides porridge to students, and for some this may be their only meal in a day. The maize is given to Mother’s Groups who cook and distribute the porridge to the children.
The program provides food for 1,424 children in primary schools and 269 children in nursery schools in the local area at Sangilo Primary School and Tilipo and Phulano Nursery schools. This academic year we are also initiating a new feeding program at the nearby Hara Primary School following the success of the program at Sangilo, and in response to requests from the community and school. As well as providing porridge for the program, three volunteers are instigating a project that will assess the efficacy of the feeding programs and the nutritional value of adding Moringa to the porridge fed to the children. Moringa is a tree that grows well in Africa and has great nutritional value. It could deliver much needed vitamins and minerals to local children, as their diet is very often lacking and stunting and chronic malnutrition are key issues in Malawi. The project has begun and data collection is underway.
Earlier this month 12,500 kg of maize and one ton of sugar was brought to Maji Zuwa for the 2014/15 academic year feeding programs. This has been financed through the generous support of Determined to Develop Sponsors and by the fantastic fundraising efforts of the three volunteers who initiated the Moringa Project.
Tawonga chomene (We thank you)