Better Food for Better Education: Shashu’s Story

Monday 25 February 2019

The year 2011 has certainly been an unfortunate one for Shashu Kiros - a 32-year-old single mother who lives in a small town called Yechila in Tigray region. Not only did her husband pass away with no financial inheritance to help her take care of the family; she was left with three children whom she was supposed to raise alone. 

Shashu tried everything to make ends meet; she walked through fire and water. She braided hair and she even worked as a housemaid. It was at this decisive point she was approached by a Save the Children staff and the agricultural experts operating in the vicinity. They offered her to take a few sheep with a revolving fund. However, she did not want to involve the family with loans and risk adding fuel to the fire. It took some continuous dialogue for Shashu to drop her resistance. “Eventually, I first received ten sheep with a revolving fund,” she reminisces. “I then worked so hard, within a year their number doubled and became twenty. I was productive enough to pay back my loans and then take a dairy cow of an improved breed. It has been two years now and I have three cattle. The cow is also pregnant and in good health,” says hopeful Shashu.

In Tigray region where climatic conditions are dry, the natural resources are degraded severely and drought is frequent, about 41% of the population lives under the poverty line. Female headed households in particular are victims of chronic food insecurity and they fail to feed their children let alone send them to school. It is in this despondent condition that Save the Children’s Education Integrated with Food Security project works to improve learning outcomes and food security of people who need help. 

“Now my children are doing well at their studies. I monitor their homework and support them but I cannot assist them fully because I have limited knowledge in the subjects myself. I encourage them to go to school on time and tell them to do their homework after school. They regularly study and are improving,” says Shashu. 

The project has purchased and disseminated to beneficiaries different fruit seedlings, water pumps, beehives and bee colonies, dairy cows with basic equipment, sets of small scale milk processing equipment, small ruminants, poultry and ploughing oxen. It also provided capacity building training on livelihood including chicken, sheep, goat and cow rearing, bee keeping, milk processing, food preparation, hygiene, and sanitation. A dramatic improvement in the lives of many families has hence been brought especially for those who are headed by females in which Shashu’s household can only be seen as a microcosm.

“Our life is changing for the better. I get milk on a daily basis and send my contribution to our milk sellers’ cooperative with a price of 22 birr per liter. My monthly milk contribution is worth 3,000 birr. I own some sheep that are worth 8,000 birr. My cattle are also estimated to be worth 50 to 60 thousand birr. Apart from household consumption I have also saved 10,000 birr in my bank account,” says Shashu.

Another aspect of the project, improving the academic condition for school children, is carried out by providing various tailor made capacity building trainings to district education offices, head teachers, teachers, students and parent teachers’ associations.

The learning experience for children has been improved through early literacy & math and child centered methodologies which help children to become active participants in the classroom.  And by providing outdoor and indoor materials, school children’s learning and physical development has been enhanced. The effects of these integrated efforts by Save the Children can only be seen in the changes it brought on the lives of children like Shashu’s; their mother is now enabled to appropriately feed them and send them to school. “My children’s feeding habit has changed. They have milk and bread every morning before they go to school. They also have yoghurt and skimmed milk,” says Shashu with an obvious contentment. “I also provide them with other types of food. I buy every school material they want including pens, notebooks. And they are attending their classes in high spirits,” adds Shashu. 

Save the Children’s Education Integrated with Food Security project targeted 28,736 children in Tigray region with a total population of 63,000 indirect beneficiaries.