Monday, October 26, 2009

Number One Priority? Food

Last week I met with a group of teachers at a secondary school in Twic County. (“Twic” rhymes with “preach.”) As part of an assessment for NESEI’s expansion in South Sudan, it has been highly educational for me to visit other functioning secondary schools in recent days.

The Twic school was in a very remote location. Arriving in a big 7-ton lorry, my colleagues and I parked underneath a tree and were immediately surrounded by kids. This is one of my favorite parts of the job. The smiles, enthusiastic greetings, and handshakes from the students always make visitors feel “at home” and “most welcome.”

Following a round of introductions and tour of the campus, I settled in for a roundtable discussion with the faculty and headmaster. In response to my question, “what is your number one priority for the students at this school?” they responded simply, “Food.”

Food security in this area is a real problem. The student population hovers around 600. Thirteen teachers teach 15 subjects. Many of the young people are IDP’s – internally displaced persons – returning home from camps sustained by humanitarian aid groups.

This makes a NESEI-sponsored school garden seem like a no-brainer. But until seeds & tools can be purchased for planting - and crops can grow until ready for harvesting - other solutions need to be considered. Calculations were done and the faculty suggested that 9,000 Sudanese pounds would go a long way toward feeding the students for an entire year. Blink.

For an equivalency of approximately $4,000 US dollars, they are saying they can feed over 600 people. Huh? Now, I have not yet done the research on this number for this area, but if this is the case, then it costs around $6 per person for food for the year. I’m inclined to think this is a monthly amount, rather than the yearly total, but I do not cease to be surprised in Sudan.

With all due respect to the Starbucks that I lovingly frequent in America, one less venti-flavored-double-shot latte a month could pay for a kid’s school meals here in far-away Twic County. This is something I will think about when I order my next cup of coffee. Or, better yet, the good people at Starbucks and other good java shops will read this and decide to expand their outreach to include the provision of meals for this group of kids in the African bush.

I choose to employ optimism as a strategy. Do you think it could work in this case?

From Twic, South Sudan,


P.S. The pics above are from NESEI gardens in Yei, South Sudan. The internet here was too slow to upload Twic pics. Hopefully I'll have a better internet connection in coming days.

No comments:

Post a Comment