With a total of 693 students, O’Sralau school is one of the two schools in Malai. It is one of the schools receiving a new building through Samaritans Purse’s Schools Construction Program. And most recently the school is celebrating its selection for Schools Feeding Program. Samaritans Purse partnered with World Food Program is distributing daily meals to each student across 22 schools in the province of Banteay Meanchey.
As the school director Geit Sina and the teachers gathered round to discuss the feeding program their excitement was evident. Many of the teachers have been teaching at the school for numerous years. Sina has been working at the school for 29yrs and has been the director for 14 of those. She knows the school and the community very well. She said,
…we are so pleased to receive the program, it makes the children and their families very happy and it is also valuable for the children…
The majority of the students come from farming families. They live in houses without running water, electricity and sanitation facilities. Sina said most of the students are often left to care for themselves as their parents cross the border to work on farms in Thailand. For this type of work, parents leave early in the morning and do not return to late evening. Children are often left to care for themselves. With a lack of income, food source is scarce and without parental support many children come to school without eating. Sina knows the program will enable the children to concentrate better in class, which means greater learning for the children and easier teaching for the teachers. She is also pleased as since the announcement was made enrollment for new students has significantly increased.
While the community surrounding the school remains poor it is putting in its all to make the program as worthwhile as possible. The school and community have organized and built a shelter for food preparation and three women from the village have volunteered their time to cook each day. Each student will receive a hot and freshly cooked meal daily. Students from this school have also decided when possible to contribute extra vegetables to share with each other.
In such communities the provision of a meal at school may be the difference between a parent allowing their child to attend school or not, it ensures consistent attendance of current students and may be the only sufficient meal some children receive. No matter how or why, the school feeding program is assisting children to be educated which will bring great long term benefit for the community and the nation as a whole.