Saturday, June 21, 2008

What are you having for lunch today?

What are you having for lunch?
It’s a question we ask every day. You may be going out to a restuarant with a friend, having a sandwich at work or school, or cooking a hot meal at home. I recently sat in on a social science class at Living Hope school in Mtendere compound, Lusaka and that question wasn’t asked because everyone knew the answer – nothing. Action Zambia, via donations, provides enough money for the school to give each child a cooked meal on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when school is in session. On Tuesdays and Thursdays you see children run around the barren playground but no-one is eating.
The first question that the teacher asked was how many children had bread and butter and egg for breakfast. Maybe three children raised their hands and everyone bantered about such extravagance. The next questions that were asked were far more sobering. ‘How many are in your family?’ and ‘How many meals do you have a day?’ Families in Zambia are generally large and the children had been listing the reasons for this – child mortality is high, provision for the parent’s old age, to help work the fields in rural areas and because of a lack of education or access to family planning. These are tough things for 5th graders to consider. As to how many had three meals a day – maybe 30 %. The rest generally said they had two meals a day and one brave soul who lives with his grandparents said he only had lunch. After class the teacher confided that many than just one child cope with just one meal a day but are too proud to admit it in front of their classmates.
So what are you having for lunch today?


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