possible for children whose empty stomachs once put learning out of reach.
Headmaster Enelia Ncube of Gohole Primary School in Zimbabwe once had a formidable burden to bear — at least 85 percent of her students struggled with hunger daily, and 30 percent of them were orphaned.
“No breakfast, no supper…nobody talks of breakfast here,” she said. “As far as many families are concerned, it does not exist. How can we expect children to learn with this kind of condition?”
It was a question shared by teachers and students alike. But when World Vision began a feeding program at this school in 2004, the situation quickly improved.
“Now, children go to school because food is served. I do not hear a child cry for food anymore,” said Pamela, a seventh-grader. “School feeding helps us to learn…I am happy because I am not hungry.”
Critical help for a struggling community
For Enelia, the program is heaven-sent, especially in a community where the majority of students struggle to pay school fees, and where government subsidies can barely buy a few boxes of chalk.
“Most of the time, teachers buy their own chalk,” said Enelia, “or else, teaching would be impossible.
“[The feeding program] ensures that children eat nutritious food daily and can focus on the lessons in the classroom,” she continued. “If they are hungry, they won’t retain anything in their minds.”
Increased student retention, enrollment
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the program is the positive effect it has had on retention and enrollment rates in the school. Where dropouts were once common, more students are now encouraged to pursue their education.
“The feeding activity spread around and encouraged parents to make sure children go to school to be able to eat food every day,” said Enelia.
“[And] the program did not just encourage parents and children to value education; it also forged the community together to do something and help each other.”
Students with dreams
But a visitor to this area of Zimbabwe needn’t look at the whole school or village to see the effects of the feeding program; its benefits are clearly visible among individual children, many of whom have faced daunting challenges in their young lives.
“I want to become a district coordinator someday, to serve my people,” said Mayo, a seventh-grader whose demeanor is now alert and hopeful despite her background. She lost both parents when she was barely 7 years old and is now under the care of her 71-year-old grandmother.
And Prince Emmanuel, just 5, is already looking toward his future. The boy, also orphaned and living with a grandparent, shared his desire to become a teacher while enjoying his school lunch with a friend.
‘Doing what children should’
As headmaster, such transformation is inspiring for Enelia to observe. She knows that children in her community still cope with difficult circumstances. But she also recognizes the importance of a program like the one World Vision implemented at her school — caring for children’s nutritional needs creates hope and stability in so many other areas as well.
“When I see children participating actively in sports activities, I am happy because they are healthier,” she reflects. “It matters a lot that they are doing what children should.”