On Thursday, April 29, during the CIES21 conference (April 25-May 2), AVSI participated in a panel session to present the findings and lessons learned from evaluations of the school feeding programs on reading and nutritional outcomes of primary school children in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. The two programs are funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition program that supports education, child development, and food security in low-income, food-deficit countries.
COVID-19 has not slowed the need to improve educational outcomes in East Africa. If anything, the global emergency has thrown a spotlight on learning disparities in developing nations. The educational professionals and researchers at Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education in Uganda (LGIHE) – an AVSI-USA long-term partner – have been working for over a decade to promote teaching methods that unlock the full potential of each learner. “School leaders and teachers are the linchpin to the radical change needed to ignite self-awareness and critical thinking in learners,” said Mauro Giacomazzi, Institutional Development Advisor for LGIHE.
Thanks to AVSI’s Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program, Ama discovers a passion for reading and shares it with friends in Ivory Coast.
Sometimes the biggest challenges do not need the most advanced technological innovations to be solved. It is often a matter of deep knowledge of the context, flexibility with respect to local constraints, good enough technology, and pragmatism.
That is the case for Clean cooking, still far from implemented in many developing country households.
Alessandro Galimberti, AVSI Technical Advisor for Energy, Climate Change and Urban Development, has extensive experience in this field and on this Road to Forest Valley Foundation podcast he explores the challenges, as well as the possibilities, related to this topic.
We are talking on Skype. After all, I am in Washington DC, and she is in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Wearing a beanie covering most of her hair, 28-years-old Olena Kuts looks away from the camera and laughs when I explain why I wanted to interview her: to learn more about her life.
“It’s a long story,” jokes Olena.
And not an easy one. Born with Phocomelia, a condition that involves arm and leg malformations, Olena was abandoned by her parents when she was just two days old. Soon after, she was sent to a local orphanage, where she lived for six years. Lena doesn’t like to look back at those first years of her life.
Alice Umutoni was 19 years old when violence spiked in her home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She was home with her family when the neighbors began to scream. Within minutes, they heard more gunshots than they could count. Scared, they started to run in different directions. There was no time to pack and rescue belongings. One of the neighbors had to carry Alice to safety after finding her unconscious. Her family was nowhere to be found. Away from her loved one for the first time, she was surrounded by strangers who had already chosen their next destination: Kenya.
Alice’s favorite time of the day is sunset. She and her husband wait for their six children to come back from school. They sit together around a cup of tea and talk about their day. But Alice’s routine was not always so pleasant. Before joining AVSI’s Better Outcomes project, returning home at sunset was a nightmare. Everything she earned would be spent on alcohol by Robinson, her husband, leaving nothing to buy food for their children. When she tried to talk with Robinson, he would inevitably raise his hand at her.
“It was draining,” remembers Alice. “I couldn’t bear seeing my children starving.”
The school year started in Ivory Coast on September 14, with children timidly returning back to their classrooms. Precautions such as wearing a mask, frequent handwashing and social distancing are taken seriously and enforced. Teachers are beginning the year with ‘catch-up’ classes to address the interruption which started back in March. AVSI is working alongside teachers, parents and students to ensure a smooth and safe transition back to school and ensuring that education continues. The activity is part of the USDA-funded project, “Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program.”
Studies show that school closure during COVID-19 has adverse effects on children and adolescents. Young people are anxious and worried that they will never go back to school. Bernadetta Anieno, 18 years old, is no exception.
“They kept postponing the reopening, and I was losing hope,” remembers Bernadetta, who has been studying at AVSI long-term partner Luigi Giussani High School in Kampala, Uganda, since 2019. “I was just home doing nothing, not even reading. One day, I asked myself what I would become if I kept being home just watching TV?”
There is a panoply of benefits that stem from adequate and accessible green infrastructure. It is undeniable that they are essential for the urban climate and biodiversity. They can also act as a catalyst for human wellbeing by contributing to develop income enhancement strategies and social cohesion.