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“This is one of my favourite moments of the day”: School meals in Niger

Canada in Niger
November 2018

Photo: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf

“This is one of my favourite moments of the day,” said a giggly 3rd grader, speaking of lunchtime at Abounga primary school in the Diffa region, Niger.

For the 400 students who attend the school, lunch is a time of communion and sharing. The students, in groups of four or five, gather around one meal.

The Mother Educators Association helps coordinate the distribution of meals within the school. Its members, for example, volunteer to cook lunch every day for the children. The World Food Programme (WFP), with support from Canada and other donors, started its emergency school meals program here in November 2016 in seven schools, for about 2,500 students. Since then, the program has grown, benefiting 16 schools and more than 6,500 students, half of which are girls.

“School meals are a way to allow students to get to know each other better. We teach them to mutually accept and respect each other,” explained a volunteer.

If these children are not looked after, they become easy prey for the Boko Haram group. Some of them were kidnapped and forced to join its ranks.

“We have to invest in these children. It is our duty. They are the future of this country,” said Aissa Abba Gana, President of the Mother Educators Association.

In a short time, Abounga primary school has proven that it is possible to turn a hopeless situation into a stepping stone for a better tomorrow.

Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance programming in Niger seeks new ways of fighting against and preventing the exploitation and abuse of children, and supports civic education to promote diversity and respect for human rights and democracy.

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