School meals and hygiene products help Ethiopian boys and girls stay in school

GPE worked with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education and Save the Children to provide critical support to children like Tesfanesh*, Kusse* and Sofia*.

January 04, 2024 by Abdusemed Mussa, Save the Children Ethiopia, and GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
From left to right: Tesfanesh*, Kusse* and Sofia*.

Ongoing drought in some regions of Ethiopia, compounded by recent conflict in the north, have had devastating impact on livelihoods. School feeding has helped ease the challenges of food insecurity on families and kept children in school amid crises.

A US$10 million GPE grant was implemented by Save the Children in partnership with the Ministry of Education from 2022 to 2023, providing children in conflict and those in drought-affected regions with equitable access to quality, safe and inclusive pre-primary and primary education.

The program built on the successes of a previous GPE grant of $20 million for 2020-2022. School meals was the core intervention of both programs, which also focused on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), menstrual health, increased community/parental awareness on children’s enrollment in education, and system strengthening.

Thanks to GPE funding, more than 235,000 children in 562 rural schools benefited from school meals and other education-related interventions.

Tesfanesh: School meals alleviate financial burdens

"My aspiration is to pursue a career in medicine and contribute to the well-being of my community."
17-year-old student, Mechelo Primary School

Tesfanesh, 17, lives in the Karat Zuria district of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, Ethiopia. She has two brothers and three sisters. As the eldest, she helps support the family financially.

One morning in 2022, Tesfanesh went to sell grain at the nearby market. With the intention of returning early for school, she hired a motorcycle taxi. Tesfanesh, however, was unable to return.

The taxi was involved in a serious collision, and she was severely injured: her leg required amputation. Because of her unexpected impairment and her family's unstable financial situation, she was unable to go back to school.

Thanks to the GPE-funded school feeding program at Mechelo Primary School, Tesfanesh was able to re-enroll following her medical treatment. The school serves 875 students of whom 55% are female, and the school feeding program reduced food insecurity and alleviated financial burdens that can impede regular school attendance.

Tesfanesh has been able to dedicate herself to her studies and has become the top scorer among 7th graders at her school.

Kusse: Reliable meals help him attend school

Kusse, 10-year-old student, Kerbatta Primary School
"I have the afternoon shift at school because my brothers go in the morning. They have biscuits for breakfast, and I have them for lunch. I love going to school."
10-year-old student, Gesergio Primary School

Kusse, 10, is in 4th grade at Gesergio Primary School in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, Ethiopia. He lives with his parents, two younger brothers and a sister.

The family has faced considerable hardship since Kusse's mother suffered a grave accident while farming. Kusse took on economic responsibilities to supplement his father's small income, growing maize on a small plot of land.

Thanks to GPE funding, Kusse has been able to attend school without worrying about feeding himself and his brothers. The school feeding program has provided him and other children from vulnerable families with access to education despite facing economic hardship.

Sofia: Menstrual hygiene and sanitary pads keep her in school

Sofia, 16-year-old student, Chilanko Primary School
"I used to miss school when I had my period. I had to skip my classes for about 5 to 7 days. To pursue my dream of becoming a doctor, I should always attend the significant instructions given in the classrooms, so staying at home didn't bring me any joy.”
16-year-old student, Chilanko Primary School

Sofia, 16, is in 7th grade at Chilanko Primary School in the Somali region of Ethiopia. She is the third of seven children in her family, which includes four boys and three girls. Sofia is among the top performing students in her class despite assisting her parents and caring for her younger siblings after school.

According to data gathered from the Chilanko Primary School administration, adolescent girls, roughly the age of Sofia, often miss school for several days each month due to lacking proper menstrual hygiene products to manage their periods. Girls from extremely low-income households are most likely to miss school, as they cannot afford to buy sanitary pads.

To ensure student safety and dignity, Save the Children, with GPE funding, distributed reusable sanitary pads to Sofia and her peers through girls' clubs at the school.

Female teachers conducted trainings on menstrual hygiene management, and the number of girls missing school has decreased, according to testimony from Chilanko Primary School management.

“I became an expert in managing my menstrual experiences due to the availability of reusable sanitary pads and education on managing my menstrual hygiene,” says Sofia with pride.

* Name has been changed.

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I have read about the advantage of school feeding in Ethiopia supported by GPE. In Uganda school children, especially in public schools, face similar problems. Many parents who send their children in public schools are of a poor economic background. School mangers ask for a lot of money for children feeding at school whci children cannot afford. They go ahead to send children away from school if they have not paid. This has kept many children away from school, and made a lot more to drop out of school. There is need for intervention.
i would like to know how GPE can intervene in this matter in Uganda.

absolutely I disagree the idea of no education /learning without food. we are expected to provide them conducive learning environment and teaching learning materials. but someone who waits to have breakfast and lunch will not learn nothing except he is there for food. educating a child is mandatory but giving him an excuse that without school feeding no education is backward idea and our countries will always be under developing countries.

Story about school meal in Konso is just an example of what GPE is supporting in different regions in Ethiopia. School meal helped to concentrate on their education. Beyond attendance, we expect school feeding is to contribute significantly on children learning outcome. Thank you GPE for all the support.

I have read about the advantage of school feeding in Ethiopia supported by GPE. Thank you very much GPE for your great commitments, on children school feeding, but I have one concern, particularly in the Somali region of Ethiopia, that when the GPE program is phased out, the problem will worsen for the children to dropout school enrollments because their families will lack food security in the area due to the prone affected drought in the last six consecutive seasons, and the GPE program's impacts will become more negative in the regions. What plans did GPE have for the program's continuation to ensure the project's long-term viability?

In reply to by Hassan Mohamed

Thank for your comment and question Hassan. GPE supports the priorities identified by the country and builds government capacity to implement reforms and programs and achieve results. Monitoring progress and learning from evidence throughout implementation helps countries ensure that successful programs continue, with GPE support or through other partner's support.

Chantal / GPE Secretariat

Thank you so much GPE for the school feeding support done. It makes many students/children to returned back from crisis impact to their class attending and even the drop-out rate was highly reduced during the time of the supports done. Therefore, it needs to sustainably continue on the GPE supports to make the students stable in their education and also become fruitful in their life. Thank you once again!

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