Children in need care provider, Save the Children International (SCI) in partnership with authorities of the Ministry of Education (MoE) over the weekend launched a five-year feeding and educational project aimed at ending hunger among students, enabling them to learn under a conducive environment.
the SCI project, titled, “Liberia Empowerment through Attendance and Nutrition (LEARN),” came into existence in 2017. It has officially taken effect this year to impact schools in Grand Gedeh, River Gee, River Cess and Grand Bassa counties.
As planned by SCI, those four counties are the first of 15 counties to receive immediate attention beginning this academic year, which is expected to commence in September.
LEARN project Chief of Party, Madam Dina Rakotomalala, said that key among the objectives of her project are “the improvement of the literacy of school-age children and to increase the use of health and dietary practices in the selected schools.
“In order to improve the literacy of school-age children, LEARN will work closely with selected schools to improve the quality of literacy instructions, improve students’ attentiveness and their attendance for lessons, and extra-curricular activities,” Rakotomalala said.
She added that LEARN will also assist schools improve the knowledge of health and hygiene practices, increase knowledge of safe food preparation, and storage practices, and nutrition.
“Other important components we will also concentrate on are increased access to clean water and sanitation services, increased access to preventive health interventions, and increased access to requisite food preparation, storage tools and equipment,” she said.
Rakotomalala informed her audience at the launch that the estimated budget for the project is about US$30 million, and the key donor is the United States Department of Agriculture (McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition).
“Over 7,000 metric tons of U.S. commodities, including fortified rice, yellow peas and vegetable oil will be brought into the country to sustain the project until October 2022,” she assured.
Dr. Anthony S. Chan, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Country Director, said that school feeding improves education.
“This is a good project, because school feeding keeps children in school and guarantees them the hope that in as much as there are difficulties associated with learning, they are capable of withstanding them until they complete their studies,” Chan said.
He then wished SCI and MoE success in the implementation of the project.
Deputy Education Minister for Administration Latim Da-Thong expressed the ministry’s gratitude to SCI for the launch of the project, which he said is to create a more conducive learning environment at each school that is to be selected in the four earmarked counties.
“Save the Children is doing a lot,” Da-Thong said, reflecting that most of the people, who made up the membership of the audience attending launching ceremony, have had some tough experience, particularly with hunger, while in school.
“A child looks forward to attending classes each day simply because he or she has hope that a hot meal would be made available during school hour. He or she is happy and relaxed while learning only when there is some energy in the stomach,” he said.
He said while education remains the first step in solving problems and attending to issues, hunger is always its adversary.
“It has been proven that a hungry mind cannot concentrate well. Therefore, without our effort to feed our children, not only when they are in school but also at home, all we do will be in vain,” Da-Thong said.
He conveyed on behalf of Ansu D. Sonii, Minister of Education, a warm appreciation of SCI’s launch of the project, promising that the MOE will stand by SCI in the full implementation of the project.
Others who made remarks and wished LEARN well included Kwasi Gyeabour, Country Director, Mercy Corps; Charles Rush, Agricultural Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana; and Caitlin Brandy, SCI Regional Program Development and Quality Director for West and Central Africa Regions.