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Hungry for change in Ghana's schools

Born just two weeks apart in northern Ghana, 13-year-olds Sulemana and Lukman are intelligent and articulate teenagers.

A keen footballer, Sulemana is often seen shooting goals while Lukman turns impressive sets of back flips when he practises acrobatics with friends.

But their future prospects are strikingly different. Simply because of where they were born.

Lukman goes to Gbanyamni primary school. It's enrolled in Ghana’s ambitious school feeding programme, so he gets a nutritious free meal every day.

It’s a guaranteed daily meal that his family don’t have to pay for and don’t need to grow.  

Sulemana doesn’t get the free meal - or the education.

Because his school is not part of the programme, Sulemana’s family must provide all of his meals.

They need Sulemana’s extra pair of hands to try to grow enough to feed the whole family.

So, for much of the year, Sulemana works in the fields instead of going to school.

Currently the government cannot afford to include all schools in the programme.

But if Ghana could collect more of the taxes it is owed, Sulemana - and many like him - could have the chance of an education.

In or out of school

Sulemana Alhassan, 13, weeds his father's maize farm in Ghana

Sulemana working in the maize field

While Lukman gets up each morning, washes, has breakfast and then leaves for school, Sulemana makes the long journey to his father's field.

There he will weed, carry heavy pans of water or simply wait in the burning sun to scare birds away from the crops.


At lunchtime, too, the boys' days are very different.

Lukman receives his free lunch every day, so he can make the most of his lessons.

In contrast, Sulemana is lucky if there is boiled yam to eat. Often there is nothing at all and he picks groundnuts to eat.

On an empty stomach they make him sick, but he is often so hungry he would rather eat them anyway.

Feeding Ghana's children

Although Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, around one in every four Ghanaian children is malnourished.

The country's school feeding programme is an ambitious initiative to tackle childhood malnutrition and it is seeing impressive results.

For parents who struggle to put food on the table, knowing their children will get a good lunch at school is a strong incentive to send them there.

But there are many children like Sulemana who are yet to be reached.

How tax can help

If the government is to invest in tackling hunger, it will need more resources. Tax is a vital part of the solution to the scandal of hunger.

In 2010, Ghana spent $32 million - donated by other governments - on healthy lunches for 713,590 primary children.

At the same time, the country loses more than $36 million annually through tax dodging in the mining sector alone.

Enough to pay for the programme itself and reach additional children like Sulemana.

Support our tax justice campaign and help make sure that children like Lukman and Sulemana have enough to eat and receive an education.