Filling minds and tummies

Children and their families breath a sigh of relief as schools reopen after the COVID-19 closure

Helene Sandbu Ryeng/Bullen Chol
17 January 2021

Torit, South Sudan - She couldn't be happier about leaving for school in the morning. Josephine Bakhita (16) has waited for Dumak primary school to resume since all schools across South Sudan were closed in March 2020 as a COVID-19 preventive measure. She is in her final year in primary school, and in need of every minute of education possible to do well on her final exams.


A girl leaving her house ready for school

Instead, books were replaced with chores at home. As the oldest of a total of six siblings, she had to contribute with the many things that has to be done every day in the household.

A girl cooking at home
A girl doing dishes

Weeding in the family's vegetable garden was also part of her responsibility at home. As food is scarce, it is paramount to make sure the plants on the patch of land the family owns is yielding maximum results.


A girl is weeding in the garden

At school, all the students are served a hot meal every day. For many students, this is their only meal per day.

"Without this food we can't survive, because we come from home without eating, then we reach at school and this is the only thing we survive on. When we go home we will find mother's gone, maybe they have gone to the bush to look for food."


A girl with a plate with food

For Bakhita's family, the school closure meant that they had to spend more money on food than before, as she didn't get her daily portion of beans and sorghum at school.

"We were struggling to make ends meet," says Iyom Apeleed, Bakhita's mother.

"We were happy when the schools reopened. Bakhita could go back to learning and the money we spent on extra food, we can now save or buy other neccessarry things."

A girl and her mother sitting on the bed

Bakhita is excited about being back at school. She loves being back with her friends. "I haven't seen them in a long time."

She enjoys being back in the classroom and with her teachers.  "I can now sit my final exam, which I thought I could never do."

Bakhita is aiming at becoming a lawyer, so she has to do well.


A girl eating with her friends

"We all pray that COVID-19 is going away forever," Bakhita finishes.

A happy girl smiling

The education programme at Dumak Primary School is a joint UNICEF and WFP supported programme. UNICEF is supporting the academic learning with learning and teaching materials and teacher trainings. Furthermore, UNICEF is also supporting the school with water, sanitation and hygiene services. WFP is responsible for the school-feeding programme. Together, both minds and tummies are filled. The education programme is generously supported by the EU and preparations for reopening of schools is supported by the Global Partnership for Education.