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Kenya: School Meals Help Girl Rise To Top Of Class

©WFP/Rose Ogola
Nypher eats her midday meal in her classroom at the "New Adventure" School in the Kibera slums of Nairobi.

Nyipher used to struggle in school. She had trouble paying attention and she’d fall asleep in class. A 14-year-old girl growing up in the slums of Nairobi, her problem wasn’t laziness—it was hunger. Then her school started serving meals at lunch and Nyipher rose to the top of her class. Now, she’s thinking about college and beyond.

NAIROBI—Nyipher remembers having to fight to keep her eyes open in school. Even when she could stay awake, she says it was a daily struggle to keep her mind on the lesson and off her empty stomach. It was a battle she seemed destined to lose. By the age of ten, Nyipher had fallen to the bottom of her class and showed little hope of catching up.

“I was so hungry I could hardly even think,” she said. “At the time I was only eating one meal a day, in the evenings. But by morning, I was hungry again with nothing to tide me over until supper, but a cup of tea. Then they started serving lunch at school and suddenly, things changed.”

Nyipher’s grades shot up overnight. Today, she’s 14 years old and competing for the top spot in her school with two other students. College is around the bend and Nyipher says she wants to study law and become a judge. “I want to bring justice to poor people and show that if you’re sure of yourself, then you can do anything.”

Slum life

Nyipher lives in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, one of the largest and poorest slums in Africa where most people live on less than US $1.00 per day. Like most of her neighbours, she has no electricity and no running water.

“When I come home from school, the first thing I have to do is fetch clean water so we can do the laundry and wash dishes,” she says. Household chores take up most of her time and whatever time is left, she uses to study.

Nyipher is not an isolated case. Kenya hosts one of WFP’s longest running school feeding programmes, reaching over 675,000 children around the country. 83,000 of them live in Nairobi, where more than 90 schools across the city serve meals provided by WFP.

Food in schools

Studies in Kenya have shown that providing food to children in school can boost enrolment rates by as much as 28 per cent. They were also found to keep kids coming back, particularly in the case of girls, whose attendance rates rose by 10 per cent when fed at school.

Teachers at the “New Adventure” school where Nyipher studies confirm that since the programme began four years ago, the student body has grown from 142 to nearly 200, and that their grades have risen across the board.


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