The art of school feeding in Somalia
Portraits of pupils in a conflict zone turning their experiences into pictures
Coloured pencils, crayons and water colours are veritable treats for children in many places where the World Food Programme (WFP) operates school feeding programmes. Garowe in Puntland, in the northeastern part of Somalia, is one such place, where conflict and drought prevail.
South African photographer Madelene Cronjé visited Garowe with WFP in April. In May she recalled her trip in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper. Men milling about with AK-47s slung over their shoulders was the norm, she wrote, but being a Westerner turned heads.
“The children stared not at the guns, but at me,” Cronjé wrote. “A teacher tried to console me by saying that most of the children had never seen a white person before.”
The day Cronjé arrived in Garowe courtesy of a UN flight from Mogadishu, tensions were high.
Cronjé focused on the job at hand: documenting pupils preparing their submissions for WFP’s annual Children’s Design Competition’s 31 May deadline. Last week we announced 20 winners, picked from around 130 from schools in 27 countries where WFP operates feeding programmes, supports governments feeding schemes or supplies nutritious snacks and meals.
If Cronjé’s photos are anything to go by, for children like those of Jilab IDP school, in an internally displaced people’s camp in Puntland, and the nearby Imam Nawawi primary school, being able to participate in the competition at all is winning enough.
“Almost all of the students in Jilab come from displaced families and we observed their difficulties in understanding the concept of drawing, the use of straight or zigzag lines, the combination of colours and the whole idea of composition and expressing themselves through colours and forms,” says Suleh Nuru, a WFP Programme Assistant in Somalia.
“Some of them were even struggling to hold the crayons properly.”
She adds: “This is the second time we’ve supported an arts workshop to enable school children in Somalia to participate in the Children’s Design Competition. We hired an arts teacher to conduct the workshop.”
That teacher, adds Nuru, introduced children to the basics of painting, mixing colours, how to draw lines and other figures.
The World Food Programme supports Home Grown School Feeding in both schools — which have a total 40 pupils aged 10 to 16.
The programme provides two meals to the children every day. WFP supports 200,000 schoolchildren in Somalia and provides food assistance to 2.1 million people.
Support staff — cooks — prepare a meal plan for the week which includes vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, beans and cereals. These are bought from local retailers participating in WFP’s cash-based transfer programme.
“Food items are bought through e-commerce, a system that enables them to buy food using a mobile phone app,” says Nuru. “These food items are delivered to the school.”
In her photographs Cronjé sought to capture “normal” moments in an “abnormal situation”. She says: “For these children, violence — or the threat of violence — is more of a certainty than lunch is.”