More sweet and less green, please!

By: Johnny Baltzersen, CICED 

It is believed that nomadic children in Mongolia grow up with mutton and noodle soup as their daily diet and arul (dried milk product) as the main sweets. But apparently that was in the good old days. Where there were no vegetables in the diet either, apart from potatoes and onions and sometimes a few carrots.

‘Kids complain about too many vegetables and too few sweets’.

The statement is repeated in several speeches at the opening conference for the BETTER SCHOOL START-BETTER SCHOOL LIFE project, which CICED has just started with our Mongolian partner MAPSSD and its 62 local chapters in all 21 provinces in Mongolia.

The project has two focus areas:
Firstly, develop and deliver activities and materials for play and learning at home, i.e. in the geren (the traditional felt tent of the nomads), where parents become the linchpin in stimulating their children’s all-round development. More on this in a later CICED NEWS.

Secondly, school food services need to be made more child and family friendly.
Some nomadic families split up, so the mother settles in the soum center (central village in the rural area) with the children going to school.

Others have family members in the village and children can stay there during school hours.
But many, around 34,000 children nationwide, have to be housed in school boarding facilities in order to attend school.

And these dietary departments are not what they should be. They have been a huge problem across the country since the upheavals of 1990.

Before then, running schools and their boarding facilities was the responsibility of the collective farms (negdels) and state farms. There was plenty of food and leisure activities linked to the local cultural center and various hobby and sports clubs.

The privatization of agriculture put an end to these resources and infrastructure. And despite many initiatives over the last couple of decades, there is still a long way to go before food service is up to a reasonable standard. The Ministry of Education is coming up with new standards. The project must also contribute to their fulfillment.

The project will provide ideas and materials for leisure activities. Staff must be trained and focus on creating as safe and inspiring an everyday life as possible. Since the government lowered the school age to six years old years ago, many boarding schools have been on the back foot when it comes to providing adequate care and attention to the youngest children. In the past, school in the countryside didn’t start until the age of eight.

While most nomadic parents try to visit their children or have them home every other weekend, it’s obviously not the most fun for a six-year-old child to move from the family atmosphere of the ger to the institutional ditto of the boarding house. That’s why the project will also contribute in particular to creating a more homely atmosphere in the catering departments.

And along the way, less sweet and more healthy items should be on the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even if it means a few more carrots.

Share in your network

Latest blog posts

Sign up for our newsletter