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School going children not spared by drought as ActionAid chips in

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 15:40

The effects of the Elnino induced drought in Nyanga have left thousands of people in dire need of help .Watson (9) of Ward 4 ,Chikata village in Nyanga has not been spared either. As a young boy attending school at Tsengerayi Primary School in Nyanga, he has had sad experiences with regards to the effects of drought within his community.

Watson is a Grade 2 pupil at Tsengerayi Primary School and one can only imagine how bad life has been for a boy his age. Watson is the last born in a family of six children.  He has witnessed  two of his  elder brothers and father relocate from Mutare in Manicaland to join the rest of the family in Nyanga after the farm owner  they worked for retrenched them  following  poor rains in the 2015-2016 rainfall season. 

“Crops did not yield in the past harvest and there was limited food at home.  From beginning of 2016, my three school going siblings and I would go to school and spend the day on empty stomachs. In the evening the food we have is not enough for the whole family but it is better than nothing. Sometimes I would abscond school and spent the whole day home because I will be hungry,” said Watson.

“I remember one day I fainted during lessons because I hadn’t eaten anything since morning. I also had not eaten the previous evening.  Many of my friends at school and some would not come to school because they have nothing to eat,” he said.

In a bid to curb the effects of the El Nino induced drought to children, ActionAid Zimbabwe in partnership with Family Aids Caring Trust Nyanga introduced school feeding programmes in schools where they are providing the corn –soya blend porridge for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) grades to Grade 2 pupils.

Watson who is fortunate enough to get the corn-soya blend expressed gratitude to the response offered. He is one of the over 200 pupils in 6 classes from the ECD to grade 2 classes that are receiving the corn-soya blend porridge at Tsengerayi Primary School.

Now we are having this porridge here at school, everyday in the afternoon.  I make it a point that I come to school and I will not spend the whole day hungry and I will be able to concentrate throughout lessons, said a bright eyed Watson.

Watson’s mother, Purtunia Chinyange  is one of the women from the community who take turns to prepare the corn-soya blend for the children. The women from Chikata Villages have grouped themselves into groups of eight from different wards who come to prepare the blend for the children.

“We have ward-based groups that come and prepare the blend every week.  As parents we feel humbled because our children can afford to eat something because they do not have breakfast at home.  They receive the blend midday and then have supper in the evening at home,” said Purtunia

The deputy School head at Tsengerenyi primary school Moses Nyangoro highlighted that the response by AAZ and FACT has been helpful.

“The school feeding programme has been helping the younger pupils were no longer coming for lessons due to hunger.  Some of the children come from distant homesteads and they do not get enough meals a day.  At one time, a class of 34 pupils could record almost half the class absent. Students where performing badly in class due to hunger.  Some could even fall asleep during lessons and a series of children fainting during school hours,” said Nyangoro.

“When we started feeding the lower grades, pupils’ attendance improved with the classes being almost full with probably 2 to 5 pupils absent in a week. When we started offering the porridge three times a week, we noticed that the children would only come on those specific days they were given the porridge.  So we changed the strategy by providing the blend every day of the week so that the children attend lessons every day and they now do so,” he said.

The devastating effects of the El-Nino induced drought have left close to four million people in need of food aid in Zimbabwe. ActionAid and its partners are implementing the school feeding programme in its operational areas of Nyanga Local Development Programmes (LDP) in Nyanga, Saunyama LDP in Nyanga and in Nkayi LDP in Matabeleland North Province.  A total of 19 schools are benefitting from the programme in these areas. The school feeding programme has been running from June 2016 and will be implemented up to September 2016.