The school term started on Wednesday and only half the students turned up at Mayo Girls Primary School

Thousands of children in South Sudan are likely to drop out of school this year because of the suspension of the UN’s food aid, students and teachers have warned.

On Tuesday, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it was cutting food rations to almost 6.2 million people in the country – including 178,000 children fed in schools – because of a shortage of funding.

“Without that food children cannot come to school,” 16-year-old student Anita Anna Samson told the BBC.

She attends Mayo Girls Primary School in the capital, Juba – one of the beneficiaries of WFP’s feeding programme.

“I am appealing to WFP to continue providing the food. Personally I will be affected because my family cannot afford to provide enough food for me. If there is no food, I will not come to school,” she said.

Another student, 17-year-old Ijora Jovian, echoed the importance of the programme.

“The school provides for us beans with sorghum and this improves learning because children who don’t have money for breakfast rely on this food and during break time they stay in the school.”

The school’s deputy head teacher, Thomas Hakim Sebit, agreed the announcement by WFP was “sad news” as it would affect many of the more than 700 children at his school.

“If the food is cut off, the children will no longer come to school. I am appealing to WFP and the international community to continue supporting the school-feeding programme,” he said.

The news has already affected enrolment for the new term, which started on Wednesday, as only 350 girls turned up.