“Children want to come to school.”

Head teacher, Ataklti, shares his hope that Mary’s Meals will transform children’s lives in Ethiopia.

Ataklti Weldu is head teacher at Barka Primary School, one of three schools in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia where children recently began receiving Mary’s Meals for the very first time. 

The father-of-two has no doubt that school feeding will make a massive difference to the lives of local children – including his eight-year-old daughter Heron.

Teaching at a remote, rural school comes with challenges. Ataklti and Heron face a 13km walk to Barka Primary School each day. It is a long and difficult journey, but Ataklti is committed to his profession. He knows that education is the foundation upon which young people in his community will build a better future. 

The school does not have enough teachers or classrooms for the number of children enrolled. Ataklti and his colleagues work around this by operating a split shift system – some children come in the morning, others have their lessons in the afternoon. 

Hunger is also a problem. Most people in Tigray eke out a living as farmers, growing what they can on small plots of land. Recurring periods of severe drought and unpredictable rainfall make daily survival a struggle.

Ataklti with his daughter Heron and son Aron. 

Few families grow enough food to last them all year round. Ataklti tells us that the children find it difficult to stay in class for the whole school day. Often, they leave early to go in search of something to eat. 

Others don’t come to school at all. Instead, they stay at home to help with the farming, or work to earn money for food. Ataklti hopes that Mary’s Meals will change this. 

“By nature, children want to come to school,” he says. “They love school. If there was a feeding programme, children would never miss classes. They would be here always.”

Thankfully, the children at Barka Primary School now receive a nutritious helping of cracked wheat with chickpeas, which is a local dish called kinche, every school day. 

Ataklti believes that a full belly will keep his pupils in class and give them the energy to concentrate during lessons, helping them to improve their grades and reach their potential.