Feeding the Willingness to Learn
Almirante Fugante Tivane, 9 years, is one of the children who never used to bring a lunch to school. Neither would you find any coins in his pocket to buy snacks at the nearby kiosk. In fact, Almirante never ate anything during the whole school day.
The small and shy 1st-grader was used to spend the long hours at school with an empty stomach. It is no wonder that all of the curly letters and meandering numbers on the blackboard seemed somewhat bewildering in the beginning. The teachers were already beginning to loose hope with the absent-minded little boy.
Like most children in rural Mozambique, Almirante comes from a poor family. As nearly 45% of the children in the country, he also used to live in chronic malnutrition. His father was a basket maker and his mother works at her tiny vegetable field, but the family could hardly afford for more than one meal a day. More than often, it would consist of a traditional maize flour porridge called xima. Only on special occasions would it be served with a cassava leaf or cabbage stew.
Life became even more difficult when Almirante’s father passed away and left his mother alone to raise two young boys. It was at this point when Almirante’s older brother who had dropped out of school had to be sent away to be raised by another family.
Almirante was luckier: during his first year of school, the primary school that he attended was selected to benefit from the Food for Knowledge school feeding project. Thanks to the daily meal served at his school, Almirante was able to stay with his mother and continue going to school. And now without an empty stomach!
Today, two years after the beginning of the school-feeding project, Almirante seems like a different person. The proud 3rd-grader greets strangers with a generous smile and has a special shine in his eyes when talking about school. Thanks to the extra-curricular learning clubs organized in his school in the context of the Food for Knowledge project, the letters and numbers on the blackboard have begun to unravel their secrets and make sense in the mind of this curious mind. Almirante now knows how to write his name and knows the alphabet forward and backward. He has also grown faster than in years, catching many of his stronger schoolmates in height and weight and now joins in their football games without hesitation.
“I’m very proud of my son,” says Rosalina Muchanga, Almirante’s mother. “Almirante used to be so tiny and quiet and spend most of his time alone. Now that he has been eating the soya porridge, he has grown to be a big boy – a beautiful boy! He goes to school with a lot of energy and plays with his friends. I think he is happier than ever before.”
And as if to prove this, Almirante grabs the basket his father had made to carry his schoolbooks, swings it around his neck with a carefree move and runs off to school barefoot but with a laugh that fills the whole neighborhood.