Few things warm the heart more than the innocence that comes with a child’s curiosity. How they frame their questions using their perspective on life is truly a sight to behold. Their barrage of questions is often unrelenting for they believe adults are supposed to have answers. What kind of adult are you anyway, if you cannot provide a convincing answer that puts a child’s curiosity to rest?
I saw all this and more when young impressionable minds from St Joseph Primary School Kicukiro visited the Africa Improved Foods (AIF) factory located in the Kigali Free Trade Zone. These little ones were given a detailed guided tour of the plant and were allowed to ask all the questions that ran across their minds. But even before they could fire off any questions, their facial expressions told a story of their own. They were visibly amazed by the scale of things before them; the size of the machines, the technology used in the processing of the foods and the journey from garden to plate through the AIF factory.
Some looked at the workers with that ‘you must be joking’ kind of look as they listened to explanations of how grains are used to make the nutritious porridge they see on supermarket shelves. To them, the guy controlling the machines simply looked like he had just come off the pages of a comic book as a superhero ready to save the world from malnutrition – and if you think about it, it is not so far from the truth. The skill with which workers were able to know the amount of grain that was needed to mix with
other ingredients to make the final product, clearly intrigued them. Little did they know that these tasks had become second nature to these workers.
The children were not only interested in the food processing, but had all kinds of questions. One child was particularly concerned with the welfare of the workers; “You said they don’t close the factory, so where do the workers sleep?” The tour guide explained that they work in shifts but you could not help but think of that being the kind of question that wakes you from your sleepless slumber (pun intended). Just like the one who wondered why the helmets used at the factory are not like the ones used by motorcyclists. You simply can’t prepare yourself enough for the curiosity levels that these little ones carry.
To say that it was a good day is an understatement. It was a fabulous experience for the workers at the plant and the children visiting. Everyone learned from each other. More importantly, the children got an amazing out of class experience. They got a firsthand look at how AIF products were made and realized that not everything that is grown in the garden, is eaten right away. Some foods can be improved so that household nutrition needs are met with ease. And that is the role of AIF. Solving nutrition challenges while also addressing the unemployment challenge the country faces.
What seemed to fascinate these 9-year-olds the most was the process of packaging the foods. How the raw grains that they saw at the beginning of the tour ended up in the neat Nootri packages, made their faces light up in wonder. The science behind the packing process, like how the oxygen is replaced by nitrogen for preservation, also intrigued them. I guess they thought you could actually see these components but the guide went ahead and explained in detail how this is done.
I am confident that the little ones left with some much-needed enlightenment on different issues like employment, agriculture, manufacturing and nutrition. I can only imagine the kind of stories they had to narrate to their parents and friends when they returned home. We thank you St Joseph Primary School for being such lovely guests.