Ethiopia: Nutritious meals help children learn
June 06, 2023 by GPE Secretariat, and Abdusemed Mussa, Save the Children Ethiopia |
4 minutes read

With support from GPE, more than 220,000 children received meals to ensure that they are well nourished and ready to learn.

“The school meal not only fills stomachs, but boosts enrollment, attendance and academic performance. For just a small sum of money per child per day, this program changes lives—and could ultimately impact the future of our country in a profound way.”

Deresa Mohammed
Deputy Bureau Head of Education, Afar Regional Government

When children come to school with an empty stomach, they struggle to concentrate, compromising their ability to learn.

School feeding, when reinforced by other interventions, has a direct impact on learning and can positively impact enrollment, attendance and dropout rates.

“…I sometimes go to school with an empty stomach, so I feel tired and sleepy. But now, since the feeding program started in our school, the ‘kinche’ (cracked wheat/oats) with lentils makes my belly full and gives me energy; I don’t feel hungry anymore. I become attentive. I pay more attention to what the teachers explain.”

Radiya Humed
Grade 8 student, Arado primary, Afar
Students eating at Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School in Hawassa, Ethiopia. Credit: GPE/Translieu
Students eating at Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School in Hawassa, Ethiopia.

The GPE-supported program, which ran from 2020–22, aimed to provide children with access to quality, safe and inclusive pre-primary and primary education in five regions of the country—Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Sidama and Somali.

The school feeding component was the core intervention of this program, which also focused on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection, psychological support and system strengthening.

The program was funded by a US$20 million GPE grant and was implemented by Save the Children in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Regional Education Bureaus.

The benefits of school feeding

The GPE program reached 223,301 children with meals and other interventions in 648 schools. To facilitate this, 344 kitchens were constructed in schools and equipped with up to three new energy saving stoves for large-scale cooking.

The stoves are both environmentally friendly and economical as they can potentially save up to 70% of fuel compared with the three-stone cooking fire.

Additionally, 163 dining halls were constructed in schools and basic cooking utensils including large pots, pans, whisks, cutting boards, knives and water containers along with feeding utensils for each child were distributed.

“The students have had a good appetite for education since we started school feeding. For example, students who attend school during the afternoon shift, eat and then stay at the library in the morning. Some students have asked for tutorial classes. They don’t want to go back home.”

Chome Muse
Teacher, Yirba Yanese secondary school

The community was actively involved in the school feeding program, which promoted a sense of ownership. Community volunteers contributed labor and construction materials for the school kitchens, cleaned the kitchen utensils and served food as needed.

Parents have been mobilized to support school agriculture by ploughing and weeding school backyards when schools are closed.

Food being cooked in the kitchen at Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School in Hawassa, Ethiopia. Credit: GPE/Translieu
Food being cooked in the kitchen at Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School in Hawassa, Ethiopia.

“When school feeding started, students who had dropped out came back. Some other students used to come late after working as daily laborers to get food, but they have started coming straight to school because they get food here.”

Balcha Shurpe
Director, Yirba Yanese secondary school

Anecdotal evidence shows that school meals combined with the construction of separate toilets and menstrual hygiene rooms improved school attendance for girls and decreased dropout rates.

“I am a witness to the miracle a school feeding program can bring about. Before the start of the program in March 2021, there were only 347 students, but now there are
more than 700.”

Sharitu Shanka
Principal of Aleto Hawecho primary school
A student lifts their hand in class. Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School is located in Hawassa, Ethiopia. Credit: GPE/Translieu
A student lifts their hand in class. Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School is located in Hawassa, Ethiopia.

Building on the success of the GPE program

During discussions with the government, GPE advocated for the importance of having a school feeding policy, which played a role on the development of a policy and related strategy.

Following the endorsement of the school feeding policy and strategy by the government of Ethiopia, regional governments have allocated budget to implement school feeding in their respective regions to benefit 1.3 million children.

Considering the huge need across the country, this is only a small contribution but is nonetheless a step in the right direction.

However, the government does not have the means to sustain the school feeding programs so an additional GPE grant of US$10 million was allocated to continue offering school feeding while contributing to ease the challenges of food insecurity on families posed by the prolonged drought and the more recent flooding.

The new funding supports 578 schools in six regions: Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Sidama and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region and includes the following interventions:

  • Provision of hot meals to students and basic cooking equipment to schools.
  • Delivery of a refresher training to school management on school feeding program which is gender-sensitive and friendly to children with special needs.
  • Organization of sessions on nutrition and hygiene with school health club members.

GPE continues to fund school feeding programs to improve children’s well-being and to ensure that they learn better.

“I come to school every day and stay here for the whole day. Gone are the days when I sat in the class feeling hungry. My school days are joyful now. The food helped me to be attentive. I had always dreamed of becoming a doctor and I am working hard to achieve my goal.”

Student, Aleto Hawecho primary school
School health
Sub-Saharan Africa: Ethiopia

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Great work accomplished by committed team as it will make our SCI team in other projects to emulate and learn from it.
Thanks alot.

School feeding program in Ethiopia, dramatically reduce their mother from stress and help the disadvantages women's, Girls and children's to access school

Dear Global Partnership for Education (GPE),
Your generosity and commitment to improving the lives of children in our country is greatly appreciated. We look forward to continuing your support in the future.
Ethiopian Citizen from South Sudan.

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