By Yeshitila Alemu, Ethiopia Program Manager
Each September, children across Canada fill their backpacks with new paper and pencils, get dressed in brand new clothes and excitedly return to school for a new year.
But for children living in poverty, back to school is a time of uncertainty. How can they study when they are hungry?
Let me tell you a good news story.
Feyine, just seven years old, is happy and healthy. She LOVES going to school in her rural village in central Ethiopia. Her favourite thing to do is play on the slides! Just like many Canadian children, she loves playing with her friends. And, she is very serious about her studies. Every day she comes to school eager to learn new things.
“Feyine is one of the best students in my class,” says her teacher. “She is confident coming out in front of the students to help teach. She always asks to know new things. She never wants to miss her class throughout the year.”
And Feyine knows just how fortunate she is. You see, she can go to school because of gifts from generous Canadian donors. Her mom and dad can’t afford the necessary fees. They are day labourers – they go into the village every day looking for someone to hire them. On good days, they are hired early in the morning and earn enough to buy food at night. On bad days, they return to their home empty-handed.
Before she was able to go to school, Feyine was often hungry. Stomach pains, exhaustion and an inability to concentrate are very real effects of hunger.
The odds are stacked against Feyine and her classmates. We know the challenges facing these children: the challenges of extreme hunger. Deepening poverty, especially in rural areas, crop failures and months of drought make food production very difficult.