The Ministry of Education is set to continue with the school feeding program in arid and semi-arid areas with the World Food Programme (WFP), which has been sponsoring the program, set to exit in June.
Speaking during the launch of National School Meals and Nutrition Strategy 2017-2022, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said that the government has set aside enough funds in preparation for the program takeover later this year. “I want to announce that the ministry has already transferred Sh16 billion as capitation for primary and secondary education and as you know some of this amount goes to the school feeding program,” she said.
The school feeding program which was started in 1980 by the government in collaboration with the World Food Programme has seen immense growth over the years especially after the introduction of Free Primary Education in 2003 with 3,850 schools in arid and semi-arid areas benefiting.
The Education CS also said that they will work closely with the Health and Agriculture Ministries to ensure that there is adequate food for the program as well as ensuring nutrition and a balanced diet in the meals provided.
Mohamed further acknowledged the importance of the program to school going children and said that the school meals did not only have a direct impact on the students’ performance but also entailed reduced class absenteeism.
“We have realized that students who received school meals scored higher on the KCPE exam by about 7 percentage points than those without. Additionally, girls who received school meals finished primary school at a higher rate than those who did not. In addition, boys who received school meals entered secondary school at a 10 percent higher rate than those without,” the CS said.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri who was also present during the strategic launch assured of the ministry’s support to the program and said they were going to work hand in hand with the schools in helping them set up school farms in a bid to boost food products required to sustain the program.
Kiunjuri further announced a subsidy on drip irrigation tools to be used in the school farms in order to ensure that the food needs in schools are met. “I want to announce that the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation through its national mechanization program and small-scale water harvesting program will support the availability of owned foods at school by providing subsidized drip irrigation kits at 50 percent of the price to enable them to set up farms,” he said.
The Agriculture CS further asked interested schools to set aside at least half an acre of fenced land for farming. Kiunjuri also added that under the initiative his ministry was willing to support as much as 5,000 cubic meter water pan project for a maximum of two acres in the schools.
The government takeover on school feeding is not a first time initiative, with a milk program initiative that provided free milk to 4.3 million primary school students started in 1980 before failing shortly after its launch due to high costs, low accountability, poor road infrastructure as well as lack of firewood, water, cash for cooks’ salaries, and salt.
This article was written by Mark Kamau, and first published on Capital News.