* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Yublina A. Tahun, led Oenali Elementary School to win first place in the country's National School Meals Competition. The 45-year-old mother of three is the Headmaster of Oenali Elementary School in TTS district, NTT province. Oenali Elementary School is one of the 61 schools in Indonesia implementing the Local Food Based School Meals Programme (LFBSM) supported by WFP.
JAKARTA - Earlier this week, what started as an uneventful Monday turned into one of my most inspiring days after a long time when Yublina Aliksanderina Tahun walked into the office. Brimming with pride, she made no effort to hide her big smile when I greeted her, and deservedly so, especially as she was accompanied by a big shiny trophy nestled in her arm.
One day earlier, she just had what she described as "the proudest moment in her professional life". That pride came from taking the first place in the National School Meals Competition.
"There is no secret to making this programme work, it takes perseverance, passion, and collective support from the community," she explained when asked about her secret in leading her school to perform very well in implementing the School Meals Programme. "What people see now is how good and how smooth the (school meals) programme run in our school, and don't get me wrong I can't be prouder, but what they don't know is that we had to overcome a lot of hard work and hurdles at the beginning to make this programme work," she continued.
Yublina with Myrta Kaulard, WFP Country Director for Indonesia.
Photo: WFP Indonesia/Erik Nugroho
One of the greatest challenges when she was trying to get this programme off the ground in her school was to gain support from the community. As the poorest province in Indonesia, the poor households in NTT receive a number of government assistance such as unconditional cash transfer, rice for the poor, and many others that do not require the community to provide any contribution. Whereas with WFP's LFBSM, the parents and the community are expected to contribute different kinds of ingredients such as vegetables, sugar, eggs, or any other food commodities they can provide. There was a lot of resistance form the community at first, they even accused Yublina of receiving bribes for implementing this programme in her school, among other things.
WFP supported the local government of TTS district in NTT to implement LFBSM in 20 schools in 2010 and now the number has grown to 42 school in 2014. Through the school meals program, WFP trains the mothers of students to prepare healthy, safe and nutritious meals for the school children using locally produced and procured commodities such as corn and mung beans combined with nutritious vegetables. WFP purchases the corn and mung beans and provides them to the cooking groups for preparation, while the community contributes other ingredients such as banana, sweet potatoes, eggs, salt, sugar and fresh vegetables.
"When the minister called my name to receive the award, I couldn't hold back my tears. All I could think of were the struggles, negative perceptions, and cynicisms I got from the community in my village in the early years of implementing this programme," said the teary-eyed Yublina. "Once the parents witnessed the noticeable changes in their children, it was only then that they realized the real benefit of the programme. The students can concentrate in class longer, their grades improve; and one of students even took the gold medal in the provincial table tennis competition and is moving to compete at the national level soon! Who would have thought that a boy from a small village, in the poorest province of Indonesia, can compete in the national table tennis championship?!"