“We only eat pap at our house and sometimes nothing. I feel like I’m sick when I don’t eat,” says nine-year-old Emilia Limdindo, a Grade 3 learner at Frans Indongo Primary School, who depends on the school’s soup kitchen for her daily meal.
“Look, we used to eat there. They give us good food every day and even if we don’t get full, we still eat, because the food is nice,” she hastens to add, preempting a question about the location of the old soup kitchen close to the newly built one.
Germany-based Landesbausparkasse Baden Wurttenberg/Kinderhilfe recently constructed a new soup kitchen made of hydraform to replace the old kitchen, which was built with corrugated iron.
Despite her disadvantaged background, Emilia is determined to attend school, even on an empty stomach so as to change her situation at home one day.
Vulnerable pupils at Frans Indongo Primary School on the northern periphery of Katutura in the Babylon informal settlement are said to eat only dinner at home, or sometimes nothing at all, and go to school on hungry tummies every day, hoping they will have some luck at the soup kitchen at school.
Limdindo, who is from a family of five, says when there is nothing at home and the food at the soup kitchen’s food is finished or not enough, she eats from her friend’s lunch packs.
“Sometimes my friends bring food from their homes and share with me. I feel better when I eat and I can listen to my teacher,” she says.
Just as we are about to end our chat, another learner joins in, introducing herself as Denize Rhőm, an 11-year-old Grade 6 learner. Having had her first meal, Rhőm was highly appreciative of the nutrition, saying it is hard to concentrate in class if she has not eaten.
“At home there’s not enough food. You just get one spoon because we are a lot and I come to school and tell my teacher that I’m hungry and she guides me to the soup kitchen. Ever since I realised I can depend on the school for something to eat I perform better and go home happy. Even if the food is not enough at home, I know at least I ate at school,” says the cheerful Rhőm.
Astrid Mauhongora, one of the people running the school’s soup kitchen, says she has seen the pupils literally crying from hunger and in one recent incident a learner fainted.
“I’ve seen kids shivering and shaking from hunger. Some of these kids don’t have proper meals, while others don’t even eat at all. You will see this in the first period of class and I sometimes make instant porridge that I bring with just to start off while the food at the soup kitchen is being prepared,” says Mauhongora.
She adds that as much as they try to provide all pupils with a meal, sometimes the food is not enough and some pupils are left out, as they depend on donors and good Samaritans for food to prepare for the kids.
“When the food is finished for the day, sometimes not everybody gets and you can see the unhappiness in these kids’ eyes and its heartbreaking,” she says appealing to donors and good Samaritans to come forward and lend a helping hand where they can.
“Any kind of contribution or assistance will really help out these kids. It makes a difference. Even a meal a day is enough for them. They look forward to the soup kitchen, because that’s what some depend on for the day.
“For any assistance you can give, please contact the school on 061-271520 or 081-2892249 and come experience it for yourself.”