NAIROBI, KENYA - In Kibera, a large and poor informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, one school is doing more than feeding students’ minds. It also is feeding their stomachs.
Thirty-two year-old Mildred Auma goes about her daily routine. Every morning at 6 o'clock she wakes her son Augustine and prepares him for school.
The four-year-old has a glass of milk and a bite of unleavened bread called ‘chapati’ before he heads off to school. He is one of only a few students who get anything to eat before going to class.
Seed school Kibera
This school, called Seed School Kibera, began offering early childhood education seven years ago to underprivileged children. Today there are 60 students ranging from three to 14 years of age.
Benjamin Odhiambo, who has been teaching at the school for the last two years, says it caters to both the minds and bodies of its students.
"The children look forward to the meals because most of these children come from less privileged families. This is the only meal they can afford within a day, so we are not just feeding them physically but we are also nourishing them intellectually," said Odhiambo.
Unemployment here is rife, and most children come to school hungry, which can lead to a lack of concentration and poor performance. So the school started a food program. At 10 a.m. the students have porridge, and at 1 p.m. they get served a hot nutritious lunch before they leave for home three hours later.
Mildred Auma is among the lucky few who owns a business that can provide for her family’s basic needs. She makes about $10 a day from selling groundnuts and buns.
She is grateful, though, for the meals her son gets at school. "The school is close to my business, and the fact that they give meals is great. [But] Augustine may not be able to stay there when he graduates from class three [his present grade level]. If that happens, I will ask them to help him find a place in a similar school," said Auma.
Patrick Aouki, the schools director, said the food program is financed by employing some of the parents to make beaded jewelery. Sales of the necklaces and bangles generate about $120 a month.
"We have an economic challenge in the slums. So one major thing we actually do is to offer a feeding program for the children," said Aouki. "This supports them actually to grow intellectually and maybe physically to be able to concentrate on their learning."
For Augustine and his schoolmates, this education may prove a way out of poverty and into a more promising future.