, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – The government is yet to come up with a structured school feeding policy in drought-stricken areas, two months after President Mwai Kibaki declared famine a national disaster.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference by the Association for Educational Assessment in Africa on Monday, Education Minister Sam Ongeri said his officers and those from the Ministry of Special Programmes were still assessing the feeding policy to factor in the ongoing drought.
He noted that 1.2 million school going children were given food under the regular school feeding programme but that the number was likely to increase due to the current famine – the worst in the Horn of Africa in the last 60 years.
“We are doing the assessments in conjunction with the Special Programmes ministry, who are really running this initiative. This is a phenomenal drought so our initiative has to be extended,” he said.
The Education Minister also explained that the new feeding programme would target both school-going and non-school going children.
He added that the government had set aside Sh9 billion to mitigate the effects of drought in the current financial year and that his ministry had received a further Sh2.03 billion in support of the school feeding programme.
“We want to make sure that no child is left out because if we only fed those that were under the programme then the other children, who are equally affected by the scourge, would be left out. We would rather carry the whole group,” he said.
Prof Ongeri added that the drought situation threatened the quality of education countrywide as it had forced children to stay out of classrooms.
More than three million Kenyans are at risk of starvation with the northern part of the country being the worst hit.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday led a government delegation to various parts of the drought stricken Turkana County with a view of assessing the famine situation.
The PM and his convoy visited Todonyang, Lodwar and Kerio in Turkana Central as well as Morulem in Turkana East where they oversaw the distribution of relief food and also explored ways through which to expand attempts of food production by locals so as to cut the reliance on aid.
The government last week announced that it would use the army to distribute food items to the starving communities after realising that logistical challenges were hampering its efforts.
Kenyans have also been donating money to feed the hunger stricken communities with the Kenyans4Kenya initiative raising more than Sh80 million by Monday afternoon.
Prof Ongeri also assured that all education programmes, including national exams, would take place as scheduled noting that the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) had threatened to go on strike.
KNUT issued a warning last month indicating that teachers would go on strike on September 1 if the government failed to employ teachers who are already on contract as well as increase their pay perks.
However, the Education Minister claimed that the KNUT officials had not yet communicated their intention with his ministry.
“That’s a very serious matter but the exams will continue unaffected. Our brothers (KNUT) have a right to state their opinion but they have not negotiated with us. We will ensure that we work with the teachers to ensure that all education programmes run smoothly,” he said.