Over half of the country's population of 13.1 million people is below 18 years. This is why investing in the health and development of young people is imperative to securing sustainable development in the social, economic, and environmental future of Malawi. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 60% of the population living below the poverty line, and 40% living on less than $1 a day, all contribute to an increasing school dropout rate. In September 2016, both severe acute malnutrition and moderate acute malnutrition cases doubled compared with September 2015. Hunger is the #1 barrier to education in the four targeted primary schools in rural Malawi, where 91% of children have been in school at some time, but only 31% reach grade 5.
Malawi has the 12th-fastest-growing population in the world, exacerbating the already scarce resources and their vulnerability to climate change, while placing enormous pressure on the sustainability of the education system.
5 Facts About Benefits of School-Feeding in Malawi
FACT 1: School gardens reduce regional vulnerability to climate change and food insecurity, while supporting the The Convention on the Rights of the Child that states, every child should enjoy a standard of living that promotes his or her physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
FACT 2: Proper nutrition increases resistance to illness, where currently, 54 percent of Malawian primary school absenteeism is due to sickness and illness.
FACT 3: On average, children in Malawi have tested at a significantly lower level than children in surrounding countries, school-feeding in Malawi can improve lowered cognitive function and short-term memory due to lack of proper nutrition.
FACT 4: The #1 barrier to school dropout and not attending primary school in the rural areas of Malawi, is hunger, school-feeding can increase enrollment rates.
FACT 5: Only 35% of Malawian children complete all twelve years of primary school, school-feeding can improve retention rates.
Our Mission Objectives
After conducting initial needs assessments at four primary schools in Malawi, two primary schools outside of the country's capitol, Lilongwe, Dwalala and Mitula, and two in the southern Mwanza region, Ngozo and Chimpwinda, village headman stated that the biggest barrier to school enrollment was hunger. Proper nutrition and education are paramount to the future and development of our world's youth. These priorities are reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals. Children who go to school hungry have reduced cognitive abilities, are more susceptible to infections and have less energy for physical activity, some of which is required to travel the two or more hours to get to school. With a high drop-out rate, the future development of the country is hinging on the well-being of children and youth.
In Malawi, the Ministry of Education started a health and nutrition strategy for 2040, with the aim to reduce school drop-out rates for both boys and girls. Malawi has one of the highest school dropout rates in southern Africa, with 11 per cent of girls, and 10 per cent of boys, dropping out between grades five and eight (National Education Update, 2014). To address this, the MoE School Health and Nutrition Strategy (2008) advocates for the provision of school meals, with a goal to scale up school meals to all schools in Malawi by 2040. Currently, the two biggest school-feeding initiatives are supported by World Food Program and Mary's Meals, both centralized models that rely on their external food donations.
FIT to RISE aims to empower youth through a community-led school garden approach that addresses these challenges. Through the school-feeding initiative, OUR MISSION is to support the Sustainable Development Goals with the development of four school gardens in Malawi to increase primary school enrollment rates for Standards 1-8, increase retention rate of girls and boys in Standard 5-8, strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change with year-round food production, and increase the diversity in children's diet.
Incredible mission! Thank you to Amanda Smolinski for illuminating these issues!