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In Kenya’s Low-Income Settlements, A Hot Lunch Uplifts Education

August - November 2019

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In Kenya’s Low-Income Settlements, A Hot Lunch Uplifts Education

A pupil gets a hot lunch in Kibera, Nairobi.   WFP/Martin Karimi
A pupil gets a hot lunch in Kibera, Nairobi. Photo: WFP/Martin Karimi

In Nairobi’s informal settlements, WFP is providing a hot lunch to around 82,000 pupils in 92 schools. School meals provide a critical safety net, encouraging more regular attendance at school and improving the enrolment and transition to higher education. School meals are a key investment in millions of people’s futures and they also boost the local economies. WFP's Martin Karimi explains.

Woodly Nazarene primary school is in the heart of Nairobi’s Kibera slum. The church-run school sits amidst a sea of dwellings made of corrugated metal sheets in a section called Sarang’ombe.

The school stands out, because even though the structure is also made of wood and metal sheets, it is one of the few multi-story buildings in the area.

This is the only way of accommodating the close to 450 pupils enrolled here – building towards the sky.

School lunch

“We get help in the form of food, so that we can stay in school and study. Some pupils go without food at home. Sometimes, this is the only meal they get in a day,” said Stanley Odhiambo, a class eight pupil at Nazarene primary school.

Stanley wants to be a journalist when he grows up.

“If we don’t get food in school, it is hard to concentrate on the lessons,” he said. Stanley, now in the last grade of his primary school education, hopes to earn a place in a good secondary school.

This will pave the way towards realizing his dream.

Risper Akinyi is in class seven. She wants to become a lawyer, in order to fight for the rights of the weak.

“WFP wants to ensure that each pupil in this school stays in good health,” said Risper.

Savings

“We work in the informal sector, and it is not always easy to find work. Any programme that can help us save money is definitely most welcome,” said Evelyne Kamwaro, a parent at Nazarene primary school.

Evelyn hails the School Meals Programme because it takes care of one of the many worries that most parents living in the low-income settlements face.

“Most of us go out in search of work and do not return until dusk. With the school lunch, the children don’t return to stay in the house alone. They stay in school and this keeps them safe,” she says.

Better performance

“Prior to the school meals programme, our school had a very low population. Children performed poorly, because they came to school on empty stomachs,” said Charles Mingo, the Deputy Head Teacher, Nazarene primary school.

From in-kind to cash

Nazarene primary school is one of the 92 schools that are supported by WFP in the Nairobi County. Starting in September 2015, WFP switched its method of providing assistance to cash instead of direct shipments of food.

“Schools in Nairobi are now purchasing their own food. This allows the schools to diversify the types of foods given to the pupils, and using cash from WFP, the schools are contributing to building the local economy,” said Charles Njeru, a School Meals Programme Officer with WFP.

Funding shortfall

However, WFP has warned that this vital safety net is under threat.

“The School Meals Programme is facing a serious funding shortfall. In 2016, WFP has resources to provide meals for only 47 out of 195 days in the school year. If there are no new contributions, WFP won’t be able to continue providing this invaluable meal,” said Charles Njeru.

WFP has been supporting school meals in Kenya since 1980. As the government further develops its ability to support school meals throughout the country, WFP is gradually handing over the programmes to the national home-grown school meals programme. 

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