One of the things teachers learn in training is about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In brief, Maslow suggested that children’s ability to engage in learning successfully depends upon their more basic needs being met. For example, a cold or hungry child is rarely able to focus fully on their studies. A child afraid for their safety is likely to be pre-occupied and unable to give as much attention to school work. One of the important parts of ensuring good learning is to ensure that children’s fundamental needs have been met before we try to educate them.

We are finding at the moment that food is a key issue. It is not that there is a lack of food, but it does not always arrive at the most convenient of times. We started in the camp with an opening time each day of 10am, because we understood that breakfast would be at 9am. Actually breakfast is at 10am, so we see few of the children when we open and they drift in after they have eaten. Similarly we were under the impression that lunch was going to be at 1pm, but actually it often happens closer to 2.30 and some days it has even been later. We have to be consistent in stopping for lunch at the same time each day, otherwise we do not have teachers available for classes. Yet, on particularly disrupted days, this can mean that we are stopping for lunch and then re-starting lessons ‘after-lunch’ before the food has even arrived in the camp. So we end up with hungry children who cannot focus well, or no children at all, as they are all waiting for food.

We cannot solve the food issues in camp as the camp kitchens are not complete yet. Food is still being prepared off-site and brought in, so we are at the mercy of traffic conditions or any of the other factors that can delay a delivery. What we can do, however is look at our operating hours and see if we can vary them a little more to meet the ‘slings and arrows’ of daily contingencies. We have therefore spent a bit of time talking to some of the camp residents this week about our hours, and have asked them to reflect further and let us know by the end of next week about what they think would work best in the future.

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