Learning on an empty stomach

In this blog our research volunteer Rachael who has just come back from Uganda, tells us about the results and impact that Kids Club Kampala's Education and Feeding project is having in three different slums. 

Children living in the slums face daily hunger and lack of access to education. In Uganda the rising trend in urbanisation is fuelling the population of Ugandan slums  and meaning that more and more children are becoming susceptible to the risks of malnutrition and poor health.  Most of these children also do not go to school because they cannot afford it.

The Sustainable Development Goals target both of these issues:

Goal 2: To end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition

Goal 4: To ensure inclusive, quality education for all

Kids Club Kampala's informal education and feeding program works to provide children in deprived communities with the chance to achieve these goals. During my 6 week stay in Kampala, I undertook some research to discover the extent to which they achieve this, as well as investigating the potential spill over benefits for participants families.

Interviews were conducted with families and teachers who take part and run the program in three of the biggest slums in Kampala – Katanga, Kivulu and Namuwongo.

Out of 46 respondents, 85% of parents claim to have noticed an increase in their children’s weight and 74% said their children get sick less often since attending the program. To back up these findings, all 7 teachers who were interviewed claim to have noticed these changes too. There was little difference in responses depending on length of participation as positive changes were noticed even after attending for just a number of months. This highlights the fact that school feeding programs like this are likely to have greater effectiveness on those with lower initial nutrition. Inconsistent attendance however did appear to be correlated with respondents who claim to have not noticed these improvements.

“since my children started going to Kids Club, everything has changed. They are healthier, happier and started praying. They still get food when I struggle to provide for them and they still get education when I fail to pay school fees”

In addition to these physical benefits, parents and teachers also noted a number of behavioural and attitudinal changes. A majority of respondents claim that their children are much more well-mannered, sensible and generally a lot happier. Due to the constant pressures of living in a slum, child abandonment and abuse is high and children are often seen as a nuisance or drain on limited resources. Such an unhealthy home environment can lead to a prevalence in crime, alcoholism and violence in young children. However, programs such as this help to lessen the financial burden on parents and contribute towards a healthier, happier household environment with many parents claiming they have more hope for their children’s futures. Also, parents claim to have more freedom and are happy knowing their children are somewhere safe, taking away a sense of underlying worry they used to experience. It is clear that without Kids Club, many parents fear their children would be engaging in bad behaviour or playing in unsafe areas such as rubbish tips and looking for food to eat or scrap to sell.

Despite being targeted at children, education and feeding programs such as this can also have a positive impact on participants families too in terms of food security and household assets. When parents were asked if they have more food available to eat themselves now, 48% answered ‘yes’ and a further 38% responded ‘sometimes’. Parents who are employed felt some additional benefits as they all claimed to have more free time available to work now, allowing them to either save, use for school fees or even afford better quality food.

“without Kids Club life would have been too tough”

Overall, given the current failings by the government to provide quality education for all in Uganda, informal SFPs in deprived communities can offer an extremely effective intervention to lessen some of the struggles these children face. They not only have a positive impact on child health and education, but can also contribute towards a much healthier, happier home environment, even translating into financial and educational benefits for parents and families. With the population of urban slums likely to increase in the following decades, initiatives such as these should be greatly considered as an appropriate way to deal with the negative repercussions of slums in areas void of government interventions.

Kids Club Kampala's education and feeding program rings true to their ultimate goal of bringing hope and love to vulnerable children, and it is clear the benefits do not stop there. 

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I would like to thank everyone at KCK for all their help and support during my time there, I thoroughly enjoyed being part of your team and having the opportunity to see all the great work you do. In addition, I would like to thank everyone who participated in my research as this would not have been possible without you.