Lunch for a Child: the report
A greater difference with the bustle of Kampala is hardly conceivable. On Bussi Island, an island situated to the east of Entebbe in Uganda's part of Lake Victoria, life is at ease. The wind from the lake and the birds are usually heard better than the people. In the midst of this environment is Bussi Primary School, a collection of 6 to 7 buildings which house education for a collection of 100-150 pupils aged 6 to 12 years, and a group of teachers. It is this school with which Milou van Mulken, founder of the "Lunch for a Child" project in 2012, quite accidentally came into contact. What started as a one-time gift of a cargo shoes for the school children, became a mission to offer all children a daily school meal: Lunch for a Child.
Lunch for a child wants to, in a fully sustainable way, provide the children of the Bussi Primary School Bussi a daily lunch. The belief that the kids can take better advantage of the education at the school with a full stomach is the basic idea for the project. A fully sustainable design must provide this meal. Since 2013 t2 acres of land were prepared as a school garden in order to grow the ingredients of the lunch itself. The parents of the children were soon involved in the project. In return for lunch for their children, they work two days a week in the garden at the school. In this way a circular system was set up where the parents are rewarded for their work in the garden in the form of a lunch for their children. Meanwhile, the project is no longer only concerned with food. Since the garden, parents, teachers and education are so intertwined in a school like this, the project also seeks to improve education and other services for children, parents and teachers.
Along with Joram Ndagga we visit the island and the project for three days. Joram is the local mainstay of Milou, with whom she has set up the project. Joram accompanies us during our entire visit to Uganda, visiting the island itself almost weekly. On the island, in three days we work on a number of different tasks. Firstly In2Afrika cooperates with Lunch for a Child, working for a project group at the University of Tilburg working out a task for them to optimize the farming methods used in the garden. For this assignment, the group has given us a number of tasks we perform for them. Also Joram wants to consult with us these days with the "PTA" and the headmaster of a new rotation schedule of the crops on the land, in order to optimize the harvest. Finally, we want to find a way to motivate parents to work in the country, which lately seems to be a problem. In all this we will additionally assess whether InAfrika can remedy certain bottlenecks with its support.
A wonderful trip with a mini-bus and a ride on a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) for16km, followed by a ride on the water in a motorized canoe takes us to the island and the school. After we have introduced ourselve to the headmaster and some of the teachers, we directly go in consultation with the teacher on the above matters. Joram brought us up to date in the previous days, about a number of issues that are currently playing around the project. One of the main problems at the moment is the increasing group of parents who want to work in the garden. While in the early days there was great enthusiasm among the parents, there is now only a small groups who want to do the work. A major factor is that the parents want to be rewarded more for the work they do. Joram explains to us that this desire stems from the fact that there are other, larger organizations on the island whose parents get all kinds of stuff and allowances, while there is relatively little they have to do. The parents become more or less spoiled and demand the same things from Lunch's for a Child project. The project offers all parents at this moment already a lunch when they come to work, but Joram explains that it is extremely difficult to bring the long-term interests of the lunches for their own children to the mind of the parents. Is this a matter of a bad attitude, or can't you blame the parents for their short-term sight? A difficult issue.
After consultation with the head-teacher we decide to call together the parents, who worked on the land, to seek their input on a number of issues (a striking fact is that only mothers are working on the project. Joram can not tell us whether fathers are too busy with other work, or that this is a good example of why a lot of development in Africa comes from women.) The meeting is entirely in the "Luganda", the local language of Uganda, so we can not understand it . Joram afterwards told us that the meeting for him was quite disappointing. The parents have agreed to a new plan to start using a new land to grow corn, but he suspected that they were partly motivated by the possibility of personal gain. In addition, parents have been asking for more material compensation for their work, and expressed their distrust about the intentions and capabilities of Joram and the project. The parents threaten to walk away from the project and in the declining student number there can be seen that they take their children with them. The durable solutions is what this project is trying to find, such as offering a handcraft workshop with which the women in the long term can generate income, for example.
After lunch we submit ourselves with Joram. We decided to design a new planting scheme to optimize the harvest. Thus, the project hopes to offer a daily lunch for the children in the future. At the same time the new scheme must also give parents a new motivation.
The next day we catch a different problem: the lack of teachers at the school. Bussi Primary is a government-funded school, which implies that the government selects teachers and pay them to teach on the island. The big issue is that teachers often do not show up because they find the salary to low or the trip to the island too far and cumbersome. We decide to make a round of the various schools on the island, in order to gain information on the ways in which other schools pay teachers and motivate them to come to the island. Although the information we get is sometimes contradictory, there appears to be a significant difference between public and private schools. Next salary also in secondary working conditions such as accommodation, travel and food of interest. Even the fear of traveling across water seems to have an influence. The biggest problem lies with the government which does hardly any monitoring on teachers who are pocketing their salaries but don't actually show up on the island. We decide that priority tshould go to lunch for a child, because the important thing is that there is actually a stable number of students is to educate and teach. We then make the planting schedule, tailored to rainy season, inter-cropping and an extension of the garden and the different crops.
On the last day we put the new planting scheme up for the test, and show it to the parents. We make a nice schematic preconceived plan for more than a year, coupled with a sketched map of the garden. The parents are pretty excited about the plans, but also begin almost automatically asking for extra rewards, faced with this extra work. The afternoon then we also reiterate our research into the problems of teachers at Bussi Island. We interview the head-teacher of another public school, and see that he has the same problems as Bussi primary: many teachers find Bussi too far and often do not show up. Still, we must conclude that Bussi Primary has more potential than most other public schools, with a view to attracting teachers. This is because in the public schools the salary of the teachers is paid by the government, so schools can only compete for teachers based on secondary conditions: accommodation, food, and transportation. Where the other public school could only offer accommodation for three teachers and kept no food, there is, headmaster Steven Bussi Primary place for 10-12 teachers, and offers each of the teachers a breakfast and lunch. Moreover, the teachers in the future, due to the Lunch Project can also be offered evening meals. Although the secondary conditions at Bussi Primary seem so good, it is difficult to get the teachers to the school.
The Lunch for a Child project has shown us as a good example of both the highs and the lows of a small development project. The project is promising and despite limited resources it has huge potential. Moreover, it is the strongest point of the project that it constantly keeps long-term durability as a key principle. The reality of development is that the mentality of the parents is much more focused on short-term personal gain. This seems incomprehensible since the project potentially give their children a daily lunch and therefore a breeding ground for a good future, but in the country of Uganda other issues play a role. The reality is that a number of factors must be simultaneously stabilized in order to ensure the success of the project: the food production should be optimized so that the children in the long run can get a daily lunch. This is, however, dependent on the parents who work the land, and their benevolence will be triggered. If this will not happen is the risk that they stop working and take their children to other schools. Therefore the teachers-problem can't be a priority at this point, because first an of the school should be prevented. We are not up to that point yet and there is no reason to panic, but the reality of Lunch for a Child is that it is a work in progress.
The In2Afrika Foundation will assess how it can use its resources so that the parents can be motivated to continue to work on the land so that the gains of the garden can be optimized with the newly designed planting scheme. We support the sustainable approach of lunch for a child, and with the right support in the long term in a daily lunch can be provided.