Free Lunches as an Educational Incentive
A BGR project in Bangem subdivision of Cameroon, in West Africa, undertaken in partnership with the social service organization CENCUDER, is making big news. The project, which started last academic year, aims at enhancing the education and health of over 95 poor and needy village children attending the Ebase-Bajoh primary school. The core of the project is the distribution of a hot school lunch to the pupils, many of whom are girls and orphans. The feeding program, which is intended to promote literacy amongst school-age children suffering from chronic hunger and an insufficient diet, is the first of its kind to be undertaken by an NGO in the Bangem subdivision. It is quite astounding that in this country—which is 40% Catholic, 30% Protestant, 18% Muslim, and probably 0% Buddhist—it is a Buddhist organization that has come to the aid of the poor children of the region.
The program is having a strong positive impact on the lives of these children, many of whom might have had to forgo their primary education without the meal program. In the 2016–17 academic year, which just began, the Ebase-Bajoh primary school has witnessed a rise of 15% in school enrollment. Many pupils have left neighboring primary schools to join the pupils of Ebase just because of the delicious meals their peers in Ebase shared with them when they met during youth week and the national day’s activities. The pupils of Ebase-Bajoh often regret vacations or holidays in the course of the academic year since they know they would have to miss their balanced meals at this time. Each time the director of CENCUDER arrives at Ebase, the children always rush and scramble around him just to find out the next type of meal to be served to them.
So far, many parents have testified to the improvement of their children’s health, academic performance, and behavior at home. Absenteeism on account of ill health, which affected the students’ academic performance, has been significantly reduced. Through this feeding program, pupils whose parents can’t even afford a meal are ensured of a balanced meal each day. The pupils and parents are deeply grateful to BGR for this program. CENCUDER thanks Buddhist Global Relief for the joy and smiles they have brought in the lives of these needy kids and parents in Ebase village and for boosting CENCUDER's image in the southwest region of Cameroon.
Through this program, the government of Cameroon and other stakeholders will understand that fighting illiteracy requires more than just making primary education free. It also requires promoting incentives for children to attend school and remain healthy throughout the school year.
This article is adapted from a report sent by our partner, CENCUDER.