A meal every school day helps Berthia stay on target

Giving a young netball player a sporting chance at school in Malawi. 

Mary Stokes
Mary Stokes
Communications officer, Malawi

Back to all stories | Posted on 21 Nov 2017 in Children's stories

Berthia, 12, enjoys playing netball with her sister and other girls from her village, once she's finished helping her mother in the field after school.  
 
Berthia lives with her mother and three sisters in a house that's an hour's walk from Nansadi Primary School in Thy’olo, Malawi. 
 
Every school day, she walks to her classes after getting up at 5am. She helps clean the house and fetches water, but usually has nothing to eat until she gets a bowl of phala (porridge) provided by Mary's Meals at school. 
 
Berthia says: "Phala gives me energy and it helps me to concentrate in class, because I don’t feel weak or dizzy. It makes my body healthy and strong. 
 
"I am happy when I am keeping fit, because I don’t get sick so often. I keep fit by playing netball and jumping." 
 
Berthia’s mother has a patch of land where she grows vegetables, and the family manages to eat twice a day.  
 
Berthia expects their harvest is enough to last them ten months. Her mother relies on whatever money they've made selling vegetables and hopes to do some casual work to tide the family over when it runs out. 
 
Berthia's mother, Mary, said: "There are times when we don’t have enough food, but when she goes to school and has phala, she looks full, and isn’t so hungry." 
 
Berthia's previous school didn't have a feeding programme. 
 
Mary says it has made a big difference. "I have seen the change. Berthia’s performance is up in class, compared to when she was at her other school. Then, when she went to school hungry, she stayed hungry. 
 
She adds: "I hope Berthia will go further with her studies and become independent." 
 
Berthia has a clear picture of what she wants to do once she completes her education at school.  
 
She says: "I love school because I want to work as a policewoman. I am fascinated by their uniform."