The art of school feeding in Somalia

Portraits of pupils in a conflict zone turning their experiences into pictures

Peyvand Khorsandi
Aug 30, 2019 · 4 min read
Lunchtime: Schoolgirls line up at the Imam Nawawi school for lunch. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

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.

A box of crayons, two happy children. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

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.”

Imam Nawawi school, Garowe, Puntland, Somalia — outside uncertainty looms. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

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.

An art teacher recruited for the workshop puts pupils through their paces. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

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.

A schoolgirl in the Jilab school, Garowe. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

“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.

Jilab students with their artworks. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

“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.”

Perspective: the basics of drawing explained. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

That teacher, adds Nuru, introduced children to the basics of painting, mixing colours, how to draw lines and other figures.

Girls at Imam Niwawi school in Garowe. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

The World Food Programme supports Home Grown School Feeding in both schools — which have a total 40 pupils aged 10 to 16.

A boy draws at the Jilab school. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

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.

Children at Jilab school wash their hands. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

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.

Cooking under way for Jilab students. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

“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.”

The Imam Nawawi school in Garowe, Somalia. Photo: WFP/Madelene Cronjé

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.”

Also read:

Children’s Design Competition 2019

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