I write a lot about the pre-requisite skills to learning to read. Talking with children, playing with language, reading to your child and developing listening skills are all important but for some children even with these things they will fail to thrive educationally.
Why? Because of poor nutrition.
Malnutrition is an underlying cause of 2.3 million children’s deaths a year, and for millions more children contributes to failures in cognitive and educational development. As a result, the life chances of millions of children around the world are devastated. The long-term consequences of child malnutrition for health and resilience to disease are well established. But new evidence commissioned by Save the Children, for the first time identifies the impact of malnutrition on educational outcomes across a range of countries.
The Story of Ngouth a 12-Year Old from South Sudan
Although he is 12 years old, Nguoth looks about eight. Like many students in his class, for two years he had to drop out of school because there wasn’t enough food at home. He still misses school at least two days a week to go into the bush to find wild fruits. On the other days, he comes to school hungry. In 2010, the UN declared Akobo, the region where Nguoth lives, the ‘the hungriest place on earth’. Drought, floods and inter-communal conflict have left a third of children malnourished.
I was five years old when I started school. Sometimes I had to stop coming because I was hungry. For two years I dropped out because I had to go to the river to fish and to the bush to collect wild fruits for my family. I think the situation is getting worse and more children are stopping coming to school to help their family.
Hunger is very bad in this area. We have no gardens to grow food because the floods destroyed them. The people are angry with each other and there’s no peace [referring to inter-communal conflict and cattle raids affecting the area]. People are very sick, malaria is very high and lots of children are absent from school. It’s hard for children to be happy and take part in class because they’re hungry.
My favourite subject is science and when I finish school I’d like to be a doctor.
Nguoth is currently studying at one of 20 schools supported by Save the Children through a DFID funded project in Akobo East. Save the Children is providing these schools with text books, desks and other school supplies, training teachers and has set up and is supporting Parent Teacher Associations and Student Advocacy Teams that encourage more children to enrol in school.
To enable Ngouth and thousands of children like him to achieve their dreams they need adequate food.
Food for Thought forms part of the IF campaign where 170 charities have joined together to call for the G8 to take action on World Hunger. A number of high-profile children’s authors have also agreed to support the Food for Thought report with an open letter to G8 leaders – these include Julia Donaldson, Eric Carle and Philip Pullman.
Julia Donaldson, the Children’s Laureate and author of the bestselling book The Gruffalo, said:
“The devastating impact of malnutrition shouldn’t be underestimated. It stunts a child’s development, sapping the strength of their minds as well of their body, depriving them of the chance to be able to read or write a simple sentence”
How can you help?
Read the full report
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