Nutrition and Access to Primary Education (NAPE)
Title: Nutrition and Access to Primary Education (NAPE)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Co-funded by: European Union
Lead executing agency: Department of School Health and Nutrition in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology
Overall term: 2016 to 2021
Food and nutrition insecurity and a generally low level of education predominate in Malawi: Many Malawian school children usually go to class with an empty stomach. Around 37 per cent of children under five are affected by chronic malnutrition and their growth is stunted. 42.4 per cent of primary school children are vitamin A deficient and 25 per cent of them are anaemic. Studies estimate that the economic losses caused by chronic undernutrition among children are around 10 per cent of Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Due to a lack of a balanced and nutritious diet, children suffer from concentration deficiencies and often become ill, lowering their attendance rate and leading to a high drop-out rate in schools. As a result, learning outcomes of Malawian primary school pupils are among the lowest in the region.
In order to improve the nutritional status of all pupils and promote healthy diets at schools and beyond, Malawi’s Government has updated its National School Health and Nutrition Strategic Plan and prepared corresponding School Health and Nutrition Guidelines. Within this framework, the Home Grown School Meals approach plays an important role as it aims to encourage a strong level of involvement by schools and communities.
Providing nutritious school meals are a powerful tool to keep children in school. At the same time, it helps boost pupils’ nutritional and health status, enhancing their performance.
The project supports benefitting primary schools in selected districts to provide school meals for their pupils. Regular school attendance is likewise improved.
The project supports the Department of School Health and Nutrition in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in implementing the National School Health and Nutrition Strategic Plan. At 180 primary schools in ten districts, the project promotes the Home Grown School Meals approach. To enable the schools and communities to provide school meals even after the project ends and improve the nutrition and hygiene practices sustainably, the project focusses on three areas:
- Increasing the availability of high-quality food for preparing school meals: The project supports schools and communities to be able to provide a sufficient quantity of quality school meals. Schools are encouraged to prepare meals from at least three out of six different food groups used in Malawi. This must include at least one staple foodstuff (maize, cassava, millet or sweet potato), one containing fat/oil and one containing legumes or nuts (peanuts, soya, cowpeas) which provide high-quality proteins and important micronutrients.
In close consultation with the technical services of the districts and zones, seed for protein-rich crops – especially soya, peanuts, beans and chickpeas – and cuttings for manioc and sweet potatoes are provided and their cultivation supported by agricultural extension services. A key activity is training on adequate handling and storage of crops in order to avoid post-harvest losses.
In order to further diversify the ingredients used in school meals and, above all, reduce the deficit of micronutrients, schools established orchards where they grow mango, papaya, oranges and Moringa. Solar driers and training on their use have been provided to increase the year-round availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Thus, schools are enabled to produce the food they need for school meals in the future and continue feeding practices even after the project phases out.
- Improving the nutritional knowledge and the hygiene practices of primary school pupils and community members and for the proper preparation and consumption of school meals: At the school level, the project supported the establishment of various clubs which take place weekly after the lessons. Using a radio programme and the theatre for development approach, pupils learn about the importance of good nutrition and hygiene practices in an interactive way. Moreover, volunteer cooks from the community are trained in how to prepare simple, but delicious and nutritious meals. Pupils, teachers and community members then share this knowledge at their homes.
- Capacity development of the actors involved: At the district level, the project provides financial and technical support to the District Education Manager’s Office to implement the national strategy especially with regard to capacity building and knowledge sharing between zones and districts. For example, a web-based, interactive platform for providing information on actors, practical examples, training modules, concepts and monitoring data is being established.
NAPE is co-funded by the European Union under the Afikepo Nutrition Programme.
From 2016 to 2018, 150 primary schools and nearby Early Childhood Development Centres participated in the project. All schools have provided school meals to their students. During the third term of 2018, 106,826 children received nutritious meals.
To store and prepare healthy food, 150 school kitchens were built or modernised with energy-efficient cooking stoves and store rooms. To build the capacities of community members to prepare nutritious school meals, 3,512 volunteer cooks were trained from November to December 2018.