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Starting up JFFLS - Observations from Caprivi region, Namibia

A group of children (OVCs) at Lusese school who are looking forward to the JFFLS starting.

By Marie McGrath, ENN

This article is based on interviews by ENN with Patrick Karanja, FAO Caprivi; Jefitta Chikwanda, WFP Caprivi; James Muchilajm one of the school patrons at Seim Nujoma Combined School, Kebbe, and ENN visits to Seim Nujoma Combined School and Lusese School sites in Caprivi with WFP in August 2006.

Thanks to all of those who shared their experiences of JFFLS, particularly to Jefitta and John from WFP in Namibia who paved the way to visit the sites and who were very entertaining on the way; to both school principals, teachers and JFFLS patrons for opening their doors to us at such short notice, and to the children for their great work and enthusiasm.

While Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) have been running for a number of years in some regions of Namibia1, in Caprivi, a region in the north of Namibia, it is a new initiative that is being piloted at five school sites. The driving force behind the scheme is the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region (43%, 2003) and the ever-increasing number of orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). Micro-projects such as this complement the WFP's food distribution programme and the government grant scheme for OVCs (see field article in this issue). The problem of OVCs has become increasingly visible with onethird to a half of children in some schools meeting the OVC criteria.

Choosing pilot sites

In establishing JFFLS in Caprivi, the first challenge was to choose in which of the six constituencies the JFFLS would be located. A number of initial meetings were held with key stakeholders to establish criteria for the sites. The final choice to locate the pilot schools (Kabbe, Kongola, Katima Rurah and Linyanti) in four constituencies was based on access to water, the number of orphans and accessibility of the site. There were heated discussions amongst stakeholders since some argued that areas that were less accessible were often neglected and were particularly in need. However as a pilot project it was considered wise to start with accessible sites, and develop the programme from this.

Following identification of the sites, the schools have now set to preparing and clearing the land. Much of the clearance is carried out by the OVCs and their carers, who are 'paid' in Food For Work by WFP - the rate is based on the number of children under the responsibility of the carer. With the land cleared, the priority is to get water supplies established. Training for facilitators was scheduled for August, which will be paid in the form of Food for Training by WFP. Three facilitators are assigned to each school.

Some of the stakeholders feel that the JFFLS should be available to all pupils in a school, not just those who are identified as OVCs. They argue that the inputs to the scheme are minimal and only targeting OVCs risks setting them apart as different from other children at the school. Others feel that the resources should be targeted at OVCs and that this can be healthily accommodated within schools without exposing OVCs to prejudice.

So far, the concept of JFFLS has been well received in Caprivi. The government already runs school feeding programmes so there is good knowledge of stocking food, some storage facility, and there is a good understanding of coming together, cooking for children and cooperation.

Seim Nujoma Combined School, Kebbe

One of the sites visited by ENN was Seim Nujoma Combined School, Kebbe. The school here already had a home garden so with minimal inputs and fuelled by lots of enthusiasm from the schoolteachers and the children, the JFFLS has already begun ahead of schedule. Water supply is the input they are eagerly awaiting as the children currently rely on drawing water from an open well to water their vegetables.

Interview with school patron

One of the patrons of the JFFS, James Muchilajm, described his involvement with the project. For 4 years, James has taught History and English at the school and recently became one of the patrons for the JFFLS. He sees his role as patron to support the children, build up their confidence, and counsel them that they are not isolated but part of the world. In the school, he estimates that roughly 111 of the 345 children who attend are OVCs.

He currently takes three classes per week of 40 minutes teaching life skills to OVCs from the age of nine years or so. The children are taught how to take care of themselves and to take care of their clothes, how to mind their homes and to help their parent or caregivers at home. He describes how they learn in "fun ways", for example they cut pictures from magazines and clothe paper people for the winter. They are also given ideas on how to make additional pocket money in holiday time, like working in gardens or selling produce from gardens, so that they are not completely reliant on parents. As part of life skills lessons, they are taught about prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and offered guidance on careers and subject choice.

Parents and caregivers assist children with their vegetable plots. The current big problem is water as there is only underground water available at the school site and this has to be drawn up in buckets from a well.

He describes the classes as very interactive with great interest from the children. The children ask him how did he become a teacher, and "how long he was under his fathers care" - meaning at what age did his father die. He tells them he too is an orphan as his father died when he was 26 years and he uses examples of famous people who have lost a parent when young. He feels you must be positive and show these children that life goes on, no matter what has happened to them.

Another school site chosen, Lusese, is busy preparing for the JFFLS. From the day it was chosen the community began clearing the land, and are now making compost and gathering manure. The Ministry of Works and Maintenance are scheduled to soon connect water tanks to already existing waterpipes. This is particularly useful to the community as Lusese is also a relocation centre where people move to when large areas of Caprivi become flooded during the rainy season.

Steven Siseho, Principal at Lusese school

At Lusese they have established the committees of the JFFLS, and chosen a role model/pioneer. They are now eagerly waiting to start lessons and get the materials they need. They have identified a warehouse to store food they produce and also those who can cook food produced. The school principal, Steven Siseho, describes how there are about 70 OVCs identified in the school but the school is encouraging all the children to join in, as they consider it is a skills capitalisation that all will benefit from.

The grand scheme is that once the JFFLS begin producing food, they can sell it and the project will become self-sustaining - ultimately this is the exit strategy. Along with this they will acquire skills in cooking, HIV and AIDS awareness and life skills, and hopefully forge relationships with each other in the community where they will continue to work and live after they leave school.

For further information on the JFFLS in Namibia, contact: Baton Osmani, WFP Namibia, email: Baton.Osmani@wfp.org and James Breen, FAO Southern Africa, email: James.Breen@fao.org

Show footnotes

1See field article this issue

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Reference this page

Marie McGrath (2006). Starting up JFFLS - Observations from Caprivi region, Namibia. Field Exchange 29, December 2006. p21. www.ennonline.net/fex/29/startingup