• September 29th, 2020

Changing lives one meal at a time

A Havana informal settlement woman positively responded to a Moses van der Byl school request to cook at their school feeding programme eight years ago. 

Many assistants came and left but 43-year-old, Mansueta Ndapandula Muunda is still forging ahead and prepares meals for about 370 learners, alone. 
Muunda responded to the school call after attending her daughter’s school meeting and immediately started volunteering. 

She cooks about two meals a day - during break time and afternoon classes. She also comes in on Saturday to cook for learners who have extra classes. Muunda only receives N$100 per week to cover her taxi fare. 

She is a woman of many tales, a tailor in the afternoon after she is done at the school and a mother of five children.

Her oldest son, Isdor Aluteni Kamati (23), who is a research librarian, recently shared a post on social media appreciating what his mother does.

“Let me introduce you to Mee Ndapandula. My mom and hero. For the past eight years, she has been volunteering every school day to cook for the learners at Moses van der Byl Primary School. She manages to feed around 300 learners every day,” read the post.

Muunda started cooking at the school shortly after she had lost her job at Ramatex clothing factory, following its closure where she was employed as a tailor.
New Era caught up with Muunda and Life Skills teacher Simeon Kamati on Monday just before break time.  
Muunda who is affectionally called ‘aunty’ was done cooking and had laid out plates and spoons ready to dish out a nutritious maize blend porridge.
Everything is done orderly. 

The bell rings and learners queue up for a plate. They take a seat on benches under a shaded area. Some learners purchase sweet aid and mix it with the porridge and converse with fellow learners while eating.
Muunda hands the reporter a plate, the porridge is well cooked, smooth and tasty. 

After eating, the learners rinse their plates before Muunda washes them again and pack them away.
The menu varies, apart from the maize flour which the school gets from the ministry of education, Muunda also prepares rice, macaroni and pasta which they supplement with meat, soup or soya mixed with vegetables. 

The school has a hydroponic garden, which supplements the school-feeding programme with vegetables as a source of nutrition.
Muunda has mastered that mid-week and mid-month, she has to cook in a bigger pot, as the learners are many.

Asked why she is still cooking after all the years, she replies: “When I came here, I knew I had to do this even if I am alone, I have to cook. And I am doing it for our kids.”
If Muunda is not around, like the last week of school last year when she attended to a death in her family, her absence was felt as children still came looking for food to eat.

When she is done cooking at the school, Muunda who has a certificate in needlework proceeds to her friend’s house in Havana informal settlement to sew clothes, which they sell. 
With this income, she sustains herself and her children.

The Life Skills teacher, Kamati, said they work hand in hand with Muunda and plan together, especially keeping the area where learners eat clean by ensuring Muunda has a head net and apron.
Kamati adds the school-feeding programme is crucial as there are learners who depend on that. 
“When they go to the classrooms, they are awake and fully participating in activities given by the teachers. It also encourage the learners to love the school,” said Kamati, adding that teachers also eat to encourage learners who may refuse to eat. 

The teacher told New Era that they need stakeholders to come and assist the school. 
He said they need support to expand the shaded area where learners sit and eat their food, as the benches are inadequate. 
At the moment some learners sit on tyres in the sun while eating. 
Kamati also encouraged men to participate in the school-feeding programme, as they need manpower.

Her family life

Muunda shared a story of perseverance and single-handedly raising her five children. 
She said her oldest son, Isdor Kamati, joins her some Saturdays when she is cooking for learners.
Muunda explained how difficult it was raising Kamati who sometimes walked for about two hours from Havana informal settlement to Khomas High School when she didn’t have taxi fare. 
But she said a neighbour advised her to use a municipal bus that was cheaper. 
She then started giving him few items to go sell at school.

“I suffered with Isdor, I gave him vetkoek, chips and sweets to go sell at school while he was in high school at Khomas High. He is a good boy as he never took money for himself but returned all the money home,” she said, while adding that with the money she bought relish and bread every day because they don’t have electricity at home or own a fridge.

Kamati graduated with a Diploma in Library and Information Science from the University of Namibia two years ago. 

Muunda said her son is hands-on around the house when she is at school cooking.
“That boy is a nice boy. He doesn’t have other manners. He loves me too much,” said the mother. She revealed that Kamati’s dad wasn’t involved in his upbringing.

Muunda being an experienced tailor wishes to get an industrial sewing machine to upgrade her business. 
“If I get a sewing machine. I will try to get electricity at home and sew in the evening when it is quiet,” she narrates, extending that her efforts to get assistance from Samora Machel constituency office were futile.

Selma Ikela
2020-02-05 09:04:01 | 7 months ago


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