Tuesday , May 21 2024
Rising food prices are projected to have a negative impact on school attendance rates and quality of education in Mozambique.

Interview with Carla Honwana of the World Food Programme in Mozambique

Mozambique is a country in Africa that has suffered from numerous natural disasters, including two straight years of massive flooding along the Zambezi River. The flooding has not only displaced many families but destroyed their harvests. Drought has also harmed food production.

Poverty is widespread in Mozambique, with 69% of its population living below below the poverty line according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). School feeding can help break this cycle of poverty. We will look more closely at school feeding in Mozambique with Carla Honwana of the United Nations World Food Programme.

How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs in the country?

The Food for Education (school feeding) programme in Mozambique has two components:
Boarding School Feeding (BSF), which provides support to 26,556 students in 152 boarding institutions, and Day School Feeding (DSF), which provides support to 199,851 students in 172 primary day schools

In addition, 21,000 orphaned and vulnerable children and 14,000 girls in 123 of the 172 assisted primary schools receive a take-home ration of food support twice a year based on their school attendance record.

Education in Mozambique: The education system in Mozambique consists of five years of lower primary education (EP1, grades 1-5), two years of upper primary education (EP2, grades 6-7) and five years of general secondary education (ESG, grades 8-12). Technical and vocational training are also provided at a variety of institutions throughout the country, and Mozambique has several universities located in major urban areas. The lower and upper levels of primary education (grades 1-7) are considered the basic education to which every child is entitled.

Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance and nutrition.

Impact of Food Support on Boarding School Students

The existing school network in Mozambique is insufficient to provide primary and secondary education within easy reach of every child. This is due to the size of the country, the low population density in some areas, and, foremost, the destruction of school infrastructure during the country’s protracted internal conflict (1977-1992). Many schools have very large catchment areas, often up to 50 km for the second level of the primary school (grades 6 and 7) and even more at secondary level and beyond.

Many children thus depend on boarding facilities for their schooling. Boarding schools receive a budget from the Government for operational costs, including the costs of food items not covered by WFP (i.e. vegetables, meat, or fish), but this budget is hardly sufficient to cover all the costs. In fact, it is the cost of food needed for boarders that puts these schools out of the reach of most rural farm families. WFP’s boarding school programme makes a fundamental contribution to increasing access for these children, especially to secondary education.

At present, the need for boarding schools far exceeds the available supply. At many schools there are significant numbers of “semi-boarders” – students who live too far from school to commute daily but who are unable to find access to a hostel or school dorm, either because none exists or because facilities are already full. These children make their own arrangements, either staying with relatives (which usually means they have to perform work for the foster family in exchange) or living in small, self-constructed huts at the school. Semi-boarders return home during weekends to fetch food, but they are often left on their own during the week. In addition to daily school lunches, these children receive an extra WFP-supplied afternoon meal each day.

WFP has provided food assistance to boarding schools since 1977. In 2007, WFP and the Ministry of Education and Culture developed a strategy and operational plan to gradually phase out WFP’s food assistance to boarding schools. The phasing out process, during which the Ministry of Education will assume responsibility for food support to boarding schools, is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009.

Impact of Food Support on Primary School Students

WFP has been providing food assistance to primary day schools since 2002. Food support comes in the form of daily lunches and take-home rations for girls and orphans. WFP’s food support targets the enrolment gap between lower and upper primary education – most children stop going to school after grade 5 – and assists the Ministry of Education in its overall goal to increase completion rates in primary schools.

Food assistance to primary schools serves as an incentive for poor households to enroll and maintain their children in school. By reducing short-term hunger, food support through schools also improves the concentration capacity of children who have walked long distances from home to school, often without eating anything before going to school. This is expected to increase learning success and thus reduce grade repetition and drop-out rates.

Targeted take-home rations significantly reduce the opportunity costs for families who send their children to school, and thus represent an additional, strong incentive for the schooling of girls, orphans, and vulnerable children who face the greatest difficulties in their education. In cases where families have to make a choice due to their own limited resources, it is usually girls who have to stay behind to help with household and agricultural chores. A similar logic is applied to HIV/AIDS orphans. They are usually taken care of by foster families who do not have the means to support their schooling but rather depend on their labor force to cover their additional costs. WFP take-home rations help reduce the burden on poor families.

The long-term objective of food assistance in the education sector is to enable poor households to invest in human capital (children) and the development and advancement of their livelihoods.

What plans are there for making school lunches available for all children?

WFP and the Ministry of Education and Culture are working together to increase the ownership and management of the Food for Education programme by the Government of Mozambique. As a first step, the Ministry of Education and Culture has started to elaborate a national social action policy for the education sector, which includes school feeding. Once this social action policy is approved, a strategy will be defined and implemented for universal school feeding in primary schools.

What would be the source of funding for any expansion of the school feeding program?

Any expansion of the Food for Education program in Mozambique would be funded through the Government budget, with support from bilateral donors.

What has been the effect of rising food process on the funding?

As a consequence of the global phenomenon of rising food prices, there has been a reduction in WFP’s purchasing power, meaning that the same amount of money now buys less food. This year, maize prices increased 61%, pulses increased 28% and vegetable oil increased 39%. In order to maintain the same level of support to current programmes, WFP needs to seek additional resources.

Additionally, it is projected that rising food prices will have a negative impact on school attendance rates and quality of education as communities struggle to cope. The result will have long-term consequences for the country’s poverty reduction strategy and development goals. In urban areas, which are more directly and seriously affected by rising food prices, the dropout rate in primary schools may increase as children have to get more involved in production activities to secure food for their families. Orphans, poor children, and girls will be particularly affected. Teacher absenteeism, for the same reason, may also increase and the quality of teaching would suffer. There is also concern that the Government of Mozambique will not be able to adequately assume responsibility for food support to boarding schools. As a consequence, some boarding schools might have to close down.

WFP is proposing some short- and medium-term interventions to help the Government of Mozambique face the negative effects of rising food prices in the education sector. These possible interventions include the postponement of the phasing out of food support to boarding schools and the expansion of the primary day school meal programme to urban areas. A proposal to fund these interventions is being prepared for the Global WFP High Food Price Fund.

How can someone help the school feeding program?

Contributions to the Food for Education programme in Mozambique should be made directly to WFP in Rome or to the Friends of WFP organization in the United States. In either case, it should be indicated that the contribution is for WFP Food for Education activities in Mozambique.

For more specific information on Food for Education programmes in Mozambique, direct contact can be made with the following:
Carla Honwana, Program Officer, Education ([email protected])
Margot van der Velden, Deputy Country Director ([email protected])
Peter Transburg, Public Information Officer ([email protected])

Anything else you’d like to add about why you think school feeding is important for people to support?

Mozambique has made monumental achievements in the education sector in recent years, but widespread poverty, HIV/AIDS, and soaring food prices threaten to undo the progress made.

In general, since the end of the internal conflict in 1992, Mozambique has seen considerable improvements in all sectors. Economic growth has averaged 8.9% per year, while the number of people living in poverty fell from 69% in 1997 to 54% in 2003. Education, health, and nutrition indicators have all improved considerably, and the Human Development Index has risen steadily, although the current ranking of 172 out of 177 countries is still one of the lowest in the world.

In the education sector, there has been a significant increase in the number of students in recent years. The number of primary schools increased from 6,495 in 1998 to 11,145 in 2007, with the number of pupils more than doubling from approximately 2 million in 1998 to 4.6 million in 2007. The Government of Mozambique has made substantial progress in improving access to primary education, but the transition from the lower to the upper primary level as well as completion rates of EP2 remain a major challenge. Overall, about 660,000 school-age children (6 to 12 years of age) do not attend school.

Poverty is the most important factor contributing to the overall slow – or lack of – achievement in the education sector, but it is often exacerbated by social, cultural, and community issues such as the lack of parents’ education, initiation rituals, early marriages, and food insecurity. Many children need to help their parents with work at home or in the field, particularly during the peak agricultural seasons.

Furthermore, with a national HIV prevalence rate of 16 percent, HIV/AIDS is taking a huge toll on families. There are clear indications that children in households where one or more adults are chronically sick, or where the children are orphaned, are the first to lose access to education. They are less likely to attend school, more likely to drop out of school, less likely to perform well across grades, and more likely to miss classes. While parents or foster families are generally interested in education, many are not willing or not able to make the necessary sacrifices to keep the children in school beyond the level of EP1.

The reality is that there are still many constraints to getting an education in Mozambique. In rural areas, boarding schools are limited and it is common for children to have to walk from one to two hours to get to school. This also means that many children sit in class hungry since most of them do not eat before leaving home, regardless of whether they attend the morning or afternoon shifts. Most families eat two meals per day during normal times, at mid-day and in the evening. Breakfast is rarely consumed, but even the mid-day meal is usually served too late for children who attend the afternoon shift to eat before going to school.

WFP’s Food for Education programme is critical to Mozambique’s development efforts, as it provides the means for children to learn without the distraction of an empty stomach. Important to mention is that the Food for Education programme in Mozambique provides full meals composed of cereals, pulses (beans/peas), vegetable oil enriched with Vitamin A, and iodized salt. A significant part of the food is purchased locally – WFP has been increasing the local purchase of cereals and pulses as a way of supporting the development of the agricultural sector in Mozambique, spending US $13 million on locally purchased foods in 2007.

About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.

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