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Special day for Masapong students



LERATO’S face lights-up at the sight of a steamy bowl of beans and the staple food, papa.

This is the 11-year-old’s second meal after the carbohydrate-rich porridge she and 638 fellow pupils at Masapong Primary School had eaten for breakfast on Friday.

Masapong is situated in Nazareth, about 45 kilometres from the capital Maseru.

The children eat beans three times a week, which is a great source of low-fat protein, fibre, B Vitamins, iron, folate, potassium, magnesium and other vital nutrients.

Fish, which is also rich in low-fat protein, essential amino acids, Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D, is served twice a week at the school.

With such a rich diet, no wonder the children at Masapong Primary School are happy, energetic and confident.

“I come to school every day without having to worry about breakfast at home because we are given food here. The food helps me participate in class and concentrate on my studies,” Lerato said.

Lerato and her elder sister stay with their grandmother in Ha-Molengoane village, situated about a kilometre from her school.

The children’s mother is a single parent and her whereabouts are unknown.

Lerato is one of the many children living in villages around Nazareth who, due to vulnerability, are forced to go to school on empty stomachs.

There are 242 orphans and vulnerable children at Masapong Primary School.

However, each weekday, many such children look forward to going to school because they know their problem of hunger would be solved — thanks to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) School Meals Programme, through which the organisation is reaching out to 200 000 pupils in 1 025 primary schools countrywide.

The programme, which is funded by the South African government to the tune of M180 million, seeks to arrest malnutrition among children. According to the Ministry of Health Nutritionist, Thithili Diaho, after diarrhoea and pneumonia, undernourishment is the third cause of mortality among children under five years of age.

The stunting rate in Lesotho is at an alarming 39 percent and underweight is moderate at 13,2 percent.

However, Friday was a special day for Masapong Primary School students, who had the opportunity to meet one of the key individuals instrumental in supporting the School Meals Programme in Lesotho.

The Director General of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in South Africa, Jerry Matjila visited the school at a time Lesotho is undergoing political and security turbulence.

Ambassador Matjila’s mission was to assess the impact of the political situation on the children.

Accompanied by the First Secretary, Political, of the South African High Commission to Lesotho, Lebohang Seshoka, Ambassador Matjila and other delegates who included the WFP Country Representative, Mary Njoroge, had lunch with the pupils.

Later, accompanied by school officials, the delegation toured the school, food storage facility and the school-garden.

Ambassador Matjila said it would be sad if innocent children were caught up in the country’s current political and security instability.

“My wish is to see these children continue coming to school and eating their food. It’s good to see them happy and knowing that there is enough food in the storage for the whole term. I am happy that the WFP is managing the situation. This also gives us the confidence that the scheme is working,” Ambassador Matjila said.

He said South Africa was particular about the quality of food donated to Lesotho.

“We are making sure that we provide food that is fortified with nutrients that promote growth and the good health of the children. The food we give is of good quality and globally accepted.”

Ambassador Matjila said there was need to hold discussions over adding a fruit-basket to the children’s diet.

“Every child should eat at least one fruit per day and my assignment from here is to go and discuss the possibilities of introducing a fruit-basket,” he said.

The school has a garden and an orchard of peach trees, which produces seasonal fruits.

Mamahloka Mahloka, the school principal, said the school’s efforts to intensify the production of fruit-trees and vegetables was being hampered by lack of water.-WFP-Lesotho


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