Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan

by Zindagi Trust
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Breakfast for Kindergarten schoolgirls in Pakistan
Students from KPS enjoying their breakfast meal
Students from KPS enjoying their breakfast meal

Since we updated you back in April, there has been a prolonged lull in the form of school closures, stretched over the course of the last few months. Regardless of this, the invaluable impact of our Breakfast Program has not waned, as seen in the active participation of our government teachers.

In the past three months, students were busy with exam preparation at their homes with online classes and subsequently gave their examinations. Schools have yet to start in person, however when the new school year will begin in person, their will be an incoming batch of kindergarten students – providing us an opportunity to provide physical and mental nourishment to new students with our Breakfast Program.

To decide the menu for the Breakfast Program, there are certain food staples which are alternated and cooked differently to keep students interested. These include milk, fruits, yoghurt and eggs. This is often accompanied by fun dishes like channa chaat and mashed potatoes.

Students graduating out of the class are so concerned whether or not they will still be able to have breakfast at school, it is such an important aspect of their time in class!” – Uzma

Uzma is a Kindergarten teacher at SMB Fatimah Jinnah Government Girls School which operates under the management of Zindagi Trust. Uzma has been an avid contributor in making the Breakfast Program a success at the school. Her love for her work as a teacher for the junior classes is very evident as she mentions her work. As young students often need more guidance and attention, Uzma finds that all her time is spent with her students, whether she is teaching or sitting and having her lunch. More than anything she enjoys the ability to find her inner child while interacting with the students.

The Breakfast Program is very important to Uzma. Seeing the students come with empty stomachs she felt it was a huge necessity that proper nutrition was made available to them. She works very attentively to ensure that all the students receive a healthy dose of their breakfast meal every morning and often takes the initiative to compensate any student who is unable to bring their lunch from home. “I look out for students who cannot bring their own lunch, they feel so bad that other students have theirs so I go and get some for them.

Since the online classes it has been very tough for Uzma to connect with students but she tries her best, often asking them what meals they have had for breakfast. As the new academic year has started and a new batch of students have joined Uzma, students are often hesitant to share with her. She tries to prompt them by telling them her meals and they seem more comfortable in opening up. According to Uzma some students tend to eat halwa/puri which is not a very nutritious meal and others do not have a morning meal. Uzma is eagerly awaiting that students will return to school so that she will be able to see them in person and help facilitate their healthy eating behaviors through the Breakfast Program.

Breakfast meal served at our SMB school
Breakfast meal served at our SMB school
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Meals given at SMB Fatimah Jinnah Gov Girls School
Meals given at SMB Fatimah Jinnah Gov Girls School

Our last update for you in December featured our caretaking staff which works tirelessly to provide delicious and nutritious meals to our students. Since then, the schools reopened in January and the students from both schools, once again arrived to receive their breakfast meals. During the cold weather in the beginning of this quarter, students continued to receive the same menu as the last quarter however, as the weather changed in these months, our breakfast menu was modified to befit the warmer spring season.

The menu included milk with boiled eggs, porridge, mashed potatoes and bananas. Students attended school in staggered slots of 50% attendance, with one group of students arriving on one day and the second group on the next day. This protocol required that students remain in their classroom for their meals, as opposed to sitting together in our Breakfast Room, which took longer to serve them the meals, but was similar to the COVID 19 safety protocols followed last year.

April, unfortunately, saw the closures of schools once again due to the third COVID 19 wave, at this time, here’s what parents had to say about the impact of the Breakfast Program and school on their lives and their children. Waseem, the father of Afsara – a KG 2 student enrolled at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School said “We feel very secure and satisfied by the Program. It makes my daughter so happy that when she comes home, she makes us happy.” He added that the school was providing an important platform for the two of his daughters that are enrolled there and he is hoping that his third can also go there as she enjoys biking and activities like sports which are promoted at the school.

“It’s a relief and comfort to me that my daughter gets breakfast at school.” says Nisa, the mother of Wahiba, another student from KG 2 at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School. She adds that when Wahiba comes home, she tells her mother what she eats in school in the Breakfast Program and asks that she may make it for her at home. Zaib Un Nisa said that she makes it a point to go to school and ask how the breakfast meals are made, so that she can replicate them for her daughter at home as well.

Students miss school and long to once again wake up eagerly, bursting with energy to look forward to the rest of the day. The parents are also looking forward to a healthy return to schools for their children, so that their daughters can continue to thrive in the ever nurturing environment in the school, which is achieved in part through the Breakfast Program.

A student at SMB enjoys a breakfast meal at school
A student at SMB enjoys a breakfast meal at school
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Caretaker staff working hard to continue with SOPs
Caretaker staff working hard to continue with SOPs

“The children come and tell me they miss coming to school and breakfast meals, and I miss feeding them.” Jamna.

You may remember Jamna from our last email about her, her daughter and the impact of the essential food packages we had distributed. A staple of the breakfast program at the Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School (KPS), Jamna has been here for three years. Since the recent lockdown, government regulations have been followed and only a few children come to school, sometimes, to get their work checked by the teachers. This is the limited interaction that Jamna gets with the children now.

Prior to the recent lockdown, in the month of October, the breakfast program was renewed with the 317 young children in the program from Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School (KPS) and SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School (SMB). At this time in KPS, as per the Standard Operating Procedures, the children were allocated to multiple classrooms to ensure that they would not be in contact, whereas normally they would get together to enjoy their breakfast in the breakfast room.

The students were distributed, as the second graders used the breakfast room, the Kindergarten students and first graders remained in their own classrooms (nursery students who would normally also partake in the program were unable to this school year, as due to the pandemic, no new enrollments took place). To adapt to this major change, the menu was changed so that it could be delivered to classrooms more easily and to reduce the chances for spill over. Jamna had extra help and made the added effort needed to ensure that the children would all get their breakfasts at the same time.

She expressed her disappointment at not being able to feed the younger children as she normally had to feed the nursery and kindergarten students and had become very attached to them. “Children are willing to eat everything with me” Jamna remarked when asked if there was anything in particular the children did not like eating. Most children however, she found, liked egg and chappati as well as alloo ka paratha and fruit chaat but were not as keen on channa chaat. As winter approached in October, the breakfast menu replaced fruit chaat with a helping of mashed potatoes.

“I’ve been here for more than 10 years and these children feel like my own now that mine have grown up.” Abida.

A huge part of the breakfast program in SMB Fatima Jinnah Girls School is Abida. Here, the breakfast program in October, catered to around 130 students from the KG2 grade level. Ordinarily this program would include children enrolled in the KG1 classes however due to the onset of the pandemic, enrollment has been suspended.

Prior to the pandemic, two to three sections of the classes would attend the breakfast room at a time for their breakfast meals, in October however, half of the children came on alternative days so there were fewer children on a given day and two were seated per table. Additionally, as Abida noted, cleanliness and distancing became a major concern, as the children remained in their classrooms for their meals, the teachers ensured that the classroom remained clean and Abida, along with Rubina (another member of the kitchen caretaking staff) cleaned the utensils to maintain COVID 19 prevention.

Although Abida had her own apprehensions about the risk of exposure her work posed, she maintained that children were innocent and fragile – they needed care and direction, it was necessary to be present for them and show them the importance of handwashing and masks. She also noted the importance of the breakfast program and the enthusiasm the children had to come back to school.

Jamna - valued member of caretaker staff in KPS
Jamna - valued member of caretaker staff in KPS
Abida - seasoned member of caretaker staff at SMB
Abida - seasoned member of caretaker staff at SMB
Young student enjoying breakfast in October at SMB
Young student enjoying breakfast in October at SMB
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Our breakfast staff waiting to welcome kids back
Our breakfast staff waiting to welcome kids back

Since our schools closed after the outbreak of COVID19 in March, the 500 students from Kindergarten through the second grade to whom we served breakfast every morning in school had been missing out on their daily dose of essential and healthy nutrition. In our last email, we updated you about distributing essential food items to the families of these students during the school closure and citywide lockdowns. Today, we would like to share a bit about the impact of this distribution. We were able to ensure that student families who had suffered the most economically due to illness or loss of livelihood could continue to support the nutrition of not only our students but their entire family without a worry. After the distribution, we received an overwhelming response from the community with many parents reaching out with messages of gratitutde and appreciation. One such family was that of 5-year-old Aliya, a student of KG-2 at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government School. Soon after the pandemic hit Karachi, Aliya's father suffered from an attack of paralysis, had to be hospitalized and was unable to continue his day job to provide for their family. Aliya was one of the many Early Years students whose families received a Care Pack with food and hygiene essentials meant to last a month. Several weeks later, our KG teacher Uzma received a call from Aliya's family who expressed their deep gratitude as they shared how the Care Pack sent by the school supported them in tiding things over till her father recovered.

Now, as we gear up for schools to reopen, our breakfast staff looks forward to welcoming the little ones again and once again establishing healthy eating habits, albeit in a drastically changed environment. Jamna is one of the breakfast chefs at Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School. On a typical day at school, Jamna prepares healthy meal options (such as the student favourite porridge with seasonal fruits!), serves it to the students and maintains the cleanliness of the Breakfast room. She is an integral part of the program and provides valuable input as new meals are added to the breakfast menu. For example, when a seasonal vegetable soup was introduced at Khatoon-e-Pakistan School, Jamna tested the recipe to estimate the amount of time it would take to prepare which eventually helped in deciding the days of the week it would be served on, and also tweaked the recipe according to the student's tastes.

Jamna herself has also learned the importance of cutting out processed foods and sugar from the diet of young children. She shares that she initially found it strange when smoothies, oatmeal and salads were introduced in the menu without any added sugar. Over the years, she learned not only that children's tastes can be shaped to develop healthy eating habits at an early age but also why it was important to do so. When her own daughter Suhana - a flourishing kindergartener at the same school - started bringing home lessons of the importance of good nutrition for a developing mind and body, Jamna was grateful that she already knew so many natural, healthy and additive-free recipes! She now not only prepares these healthy recipes at home but encourages her family and her neighbours to give them a try too for their own children.

Jamna and the rest of the all-female staff of the breakfast team have really been missing the eager happy faces they would serve every morning and are excited to have them back soon. We are currently working on a plan for safe school re-opening to ensure that the risk of exposure and transfer of the novel coronavirus is minimized. To this end, the breakfast staff will be trained on important Standard Operating Procedures to be followed in the Breakfast Room such as ensuring safe distance between students and proper ventilation. Preventing malnutrition and increasing the learning capacity of our government school students is a goal which has become even more important in the post-pandemic world. We hope to have your support as we gear up for this new normal - please donate generously to continue providing local, seasonal, healthy and additive-free breakfast. 

The team hard at work before our last school event
The team hard at work before our last school event

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In the Care Packages: lentils, rice, soap and more
In the Care Packages: lentils, rice, soap and more

COVID19 may limit their movement but not their nutrition

It has now been two full months since COVID-19 shut down our schools and put the whole world in lockdown. Our first worry was fulfilling the nutritional needs of our students who depend on the daily breakfast served at our schools. With no economic activity, many families struggled to put even two full meals on the table let alone the kind of wholesome nutritious meals required for the healthy growth of young children. The pandemic exacerbated the need to support the nutrition of these students, many of whom come from families who were already unable to provide them with any kind of breakfast in pre-COVID times.

In early to mid March, we conducted a household survey to gauge the needs of our students, asking their parents about the number of meals they were eating, whether they required food rations to survive the lockdown, and what kind of access to technology they had at home to be able to consume educational content. Based on the findings of the survey, care packages were put together containing food and hygiene essentials as well as learning materials including art and activity worksheets with colour pencils. The Food Essentials included: 10 Kg flour, 3 kg of daal and chana (lentils and beans), 2 kg of rice, 3 litres of cooking oil as well as tea, dairy tea whitener and sugar. Care Packages were sent to the homes of 118 students enrolled in the breakfast program at Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School (KPS) and 151 students at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School (SMB).

During and post the process of distribution of care packages, several parents have called their children’s teachers and expressing their gratitude for not only taking care of their immediate needs but also for morally supporting them in these uncertain and difficult times.

Pre-Corona Menu

Before the schools closed down in March, our schools were running their winter menu. 250 students at KPS and 300 students at SMB were served a menu rotating among the following: boiled eggs, potato and spinach with chapati, vegetable soup, khagina (scrambled eggs, onions and potatoes) with chapati, mashed potatoes with cucumber and carrot sticks, boiled moong daal (lentils) with diced tomatoes and capsicum. These were either served with a glass of milk, chikoo milk shake or seasonal fruits like bananas or oranges. The students had started enjoying breakfast so much that they started demanding the same at home and many mothers have come to the school to learn these recipes.

Donate!

We thank you for your support in the past and urge you to make a donation today to support nutritious meals for children in these uncertain times!

Learning Packs: Art worksheets and colour pencils
Learning Packs: Art worksheets and colour pencils
Care packages ready to be distributed to families
Care packages ready to be distributed to families

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Zindagi Trust

Location: Karachi, Sindh - Pakistan
Website:
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Twitter: @zindagitrust
Project Leader:
Sana Kazmi
Karachi, Sindh Pakistan
$29,774 raised of $35,000 goal
 
380 donations
$5,226 to go
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