The lifelong influence of phala

Jabulani, from Malawi, shares his story.

Back to all stories | Posted on 22 April 20 in BlogChildren's stories

Jabulani was a young boy when Mary’s Meals first began feeding in his local primary school. Growing up in a remote and rural village, he had given up on education and, like most of the other children he knew, didn’t think school was for him. All of that changed when they heard about the likuni phala (porridge) that was being served to children who attended classes.

The introduction of the feeding program was met with curiosity and excitement from young Jabulani and his friends. At the time, they had no idea about the changes that daily serving of porridge would make to their lives.

Today, Jabulani is a waiter and barman working in Blantyre, the second largest city in Malawi. His old primary school is the largest in the Mary’s Meals program, serving 10,000 children every school day. Here, in his own words, he explains his first introduction to Mary’s Meals and the impact it had on his life, and the lives of schoolchildren across Malawi.

There are a lot of children going to school under the influence of phala, because they know, ‘if I'm going to school, I'm going to get phala’. When they go to eat, they also get educated, so I would say phala is the greatest motivation today for a lot of children. 

I used to be one of them. I used to go to school because I would get a huge cup of phala.

It would have been really hard without that porridge, I don't know if I would be here. I remember I had given up on school. I thought, ‘I shouldn't continue this school thing, it’s not going to help me get where I want to be’. Because in my village most people were not going to school, they were just focused on farming and other things, not school. But I remember right after phala was introduced, everybody was talking about it:

‘Hey, did you know that they are providing phala at school?'
'Like really?'
'Yeah phala. Likuni phala.'
'Let me go get that phala!'
'When you get there, they will tell you there's phala. Did you bring yourself a cup?'
'If you have a cup, you go in, you’ve got to attend all your classes, if you don't you're not going to get phala!’

Open quote mark It would have been really hard without that porridge, I don't know if I would be here. I remember I had given up on school. Close quote mark

After that, there was no way a kid would skip school because he knew ‘if I skip school, I won’t get fed’. So everyone was attending classes each and every day and in so doing, the illiteracy levels were decreased. Phala has been the greatest motivation and Malawi is forever going to be grateful.

Mary’s Meals is still here in Malawi. It's a great thing because a lot of people have to get educated, everybody has that right. When you are educated you have a lot of opportunities. You become a better version of yourself and you can help others. When you are educated you get to know what to do, you get to know what rights you have, you get to know how to fight for what’s rightfully yours.

When I was a little kid I used to watch movies. I would just stare at them and not really get what they were saying because most of them were in English, but I was just really curious. I wondered if one day I would ever get to speak English like that, it would be the greatest achievement in my life! So for me, education has brought me this far, without education I wouldn't be working here, I wouldn't be speaking like this. I'm not going to say I'm where I want to be yet, but school has brought me this far and I’m really grateful for that.

Thank you for helping thousands of children like Jabulani to find a better life, through a daily meal served in a place of eduction.