When Wawira Njiru left Kenya to study nutritional sciences in Australia in 2010, she may have dreamed about taking back the knowledge to her home town in Ruiru. She however, may have laughed off suggestions that one day she would be awarded Ksh 25 million for believing in her dreams!
Last week, Wawira Njiru became the first-ever recipient of Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership, an award that is supported by American multinational technology company, Cisco in partnership with Global Citizen an organization focused on mobilizing 100 million socially-minded advocates who want to end extreme global poverty by 2030.
Wawira’s idea to feed school children was born with the onset of Free Primary Education in 2003. Nearly overnight, 1.3 million children entered the public education system, overwhelming teachers and administrators and stretching infrastructure like classrooms, supplies, and bathroom facilities beyond capacity.
In talking to teachers, Wawira learned that even though admission fees had been dropped, many of the poorest children were still not attending regularly because of one thing: food. Some pupils would leave school during lunch, without the luxury of a meal, to go earn less than a dollar that would cater for the next meal. And this would eventually lead to high dropout rates.
This is what prompted Wawira to action. She wanted to do something about it. Working with family and friends based in Ruiru, she designed a balanced menu built around local, seasonal foods. Partnering with a local church, a kitchen was constructed not far from the school for ease of access. She was also able to start a pig farm with donated land, the income from which they were able to hire two cooks and purchase fish and meat. And Food 4 Education was born.
Within a year, the results were there for all to see, that led Wawira to note:
“We’ve really seen food directly impacting education in the way that it’s improved their concentration in class, their attendance, and their discipline, as well.”
Because she knows food alone won’t get students to high school, Wawira also started a mentorship program that pairs children with students from the local university for tutoring, help on high school applications, and just a general support.
Today, the organization provides 2,000 meals a day, allowing children to stay in school and focus on their education.
Through Food4Education, 100% of the students under the program have scored more than 250/500 marks in their final primary school exams while 96% of have successfully transitioned from primary to secondary school.