Literacy Enhancement & Rural Nutrition (Uganda-LEARN)

Improving access to education in a post-conflict environment

In September 2010 ACDI/VOCA was awarded a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to implement a three-year Food for Education program in northeastern Uganda. As part of the Literacy Enhancement and Rural Nutrition (Uganda-LEARN) program, ACDI/VOCA works with schools, Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), School Feeding Management Committees (SFMCs), and local communities to deliver a comprehensive package of school feeding, school gardens, community training, and infrastructure rehabilitation. These activities worked to improve attendance, create an improved learning environment and restore conditions conducive to quality educational performance in this post-conflict area of Uganda.

Two decades of armed conflict and internal displacement in northern Uganda put major strains on educational infrastructure, disrupted staffing patterns, impaired school attendance leaving this part of Uganda lagging behind the rest of country. With peace in northern Uganda, many people returned to their original homes, but needed support to rebuild their livelihoods to ensure their food security and combat short-term hunger. ACDI/VOCA’s Uganda-LEARN program implemented its activities in 33 schools in the districts of Katakwi and Amuria of the Teso subregion, one of the most food-insecure regions in Uganda, where children’s ability to attend school is limited by their household’s efforts to meet daily food needs.

The outcomes of this program were:

  1. improved school attendance and retention of boys and girls in ACDI/VOCA-assisted primary schools, with a special emphasis on the female students
  2. improved educational facilities for students and teachers
  3. improved knowledge of nutrition, hygiene and agriculture
  4. increased ability of local communities to manage and sustain school-feeding programs.

School Feeding

The Uganda-LEARN program provided school lunches of cornmeal, yellow peas, and vegetable oil to over 25,000 primary school pupils in 33 schools each day that school is in session. In addition, female pupils with an attendance rate of 80 percent or higher received monthly take-home rations of corn meal during the school year, and they and their families received health and nutrition lessons before each distribution. Over 10,000 girls earned take home rations each month. As a condition of participation in the program, School Feeding Management Committees (SFMCs) and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) led the rehabilitation of school food storage and preparation areas, and ACDI/VOCA trained members of these groups from all 33 schools in the proper storage, safe handling and preparation of the food. The program provided schools with large cooking pots and the communities themselves contribute other necessary inputs, such as cooking fuel, flavor additives, and labor to prepare the daily meals.

Infrastructure Rehabilitation

ACDI/VOCA worked with district education officials to prioritize rehabilitation activities. Based on district and school-level recommendations, the program constructed 50 latrine stances for pupils, 66 latrine stances for teachers (so that each school had one male and one female staff latrine), and 10 new boreholes in schools without a nearby water source. Uganda-LEARN also rehabilitated 10 existing boreholes and 31 rainwater catchment systems, and provided desks for 5,000 pupils. ACDI/VOCA provided technical assistance for these efforts through its on-staff Construction Advisor as well as the recruitment of a district-approved contracting firm, and communities contributed labor and local materials.

Sustainability & Training

In order to ensure the continued management and sustainability of school feeding once the Uganda-LEARN program ended, ACDI/VOCA provided training to school administrations, PTAs and SFMCs in basic finance, commodity handling and storage, nutrition and hygiene, and agriculture. Most program schools had existing land for school gardens, and ACDI/VOCA provided training and agriculture inputs, such as tools and seeds, to help these gardens become more productive and nutritionally diverse. These gardens will serve as sources of income generation to cover cash costs of the school feeding program, as well as provide additional nutritious food to supplement the USDA-donated commodities. The school gardens also served as “points of learning” for the children, where the program worked with school Agronomy teachers to convey basic knowledge to the children on the topics mentioned above.

ACDI/VOCA provided a full mid-day meal during the program’s first year of ration distribution, and decreased the amount of commodity provided each year to slowly transition responsibility for food provision to the communities themselves. Though the program provided progressively fewer commodities each year, ACDI/VOCA continued to provide technical support and supervision for the duration of the program to ensure a smooth transition to a school- and community-led school feeding program.