Kindergarten feeding changes lives
27 September 2021 | Social Issues
More than 5 500 vulnerable pre-schoolers receive three free meals at 135 kindergartens across Windhoek’s poverty-stricken informal settlements.
The programme is one component of a large-scale Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme launched more than two years ago by the Development Workshop Namibia (DWN).
It is a multi-pronged initiative focused on supporting and engaging with informal settlement kindergartens through teacher training, learning material distribution, parent workshops and a sanitation project as well as the fast-growing feeding initiative.
The ECD initiative has seen massive growth since last year, from 20 centres supported only in Windhoek, to 240 ECD centres now receiving help in several towns with the financial support of donors such as the EU, Unicef, MTC and the Twin Hills Trust in Omaruru.
The feeding programme has been rolled out to 135 Windhoek kindergartens and four in Omaruru.
“Children growing up in the informal settlements are burdened with a lot of social and economic challenges that trap them in poverty and inequality for many years to come,” Hilma Weber, the DWN ECD coordinator, explained. “Food security is a very big challenge and children are at danger of developmental delays because of malnutrition,” she warned.
“To change this it is important that, as a society, we invest more in ECD programmes and activities. It must be our common goal that all children, irrespective of their background, have access to quality early learning and education.”
Covid-19 has battered the already encumbered informal economies and social problems that informal settlement residents grapple with daily.
As a result, hunger, a widespread problem for many families pre-pandemic, has reared its head in more households over the past year.
As a result, many teachers dug into their own meagre pockets, to ensure that hungry kids in their care are fed.
“You feel bad when you see a child that has food, and another that has nothing. So we actually sometimes sacrificed our food, to make sure a child did not suffer without food,” Ndeshi pre-primary teacher Elizabeth Iyambo said.
“These are our children, they are tomorrow’s leaders. Because of this DWN programme, we almost have no absentee children anymore, because they feel happy, they feel loved. The feeding programme has changed their life.”
Foibe Selvanus, a community activist said that hunger is “hunger is a big concern. And with Covid-19 a lot of people have lost their jobs, and they struggle to provide food. They probably are only able to provide dinner, which is also not enough.”
The ECD programme ensures children are guaranteed three meals a day, and has boosted school attendance and quality of education.
“Previously kids went to school on an empty stomach, affecting their concentration. They would drink water just to fill their tummies. But now we see an academic improvement and higher daily attendance. The kids look forward to the day, because of the food,” Selvanus said.
“A hungry child cannot concentrate. If they have something in their stomach, we can teach them,” Martha Beukes, an Eden pre-primary school teacher, said. “I have to give DWN a round of applause. This programme has helped parents, the kids and the community.
“Many parents have lost their jobs and they say this programme makes a big difference. Some children don’t have anything to eat at home, so they come here to school where they get a meal.”
Weber stressed that more can and must be done to boost ECD centres. “If more in the private sector joined forces and invested in early childhood development, this country will be different in years to come.”