Access to food is every child’s right and providing lunch or breakfast at school plays a key role in facilitating students throughout their studies, the Minister for Education, Papias Malimba Musafiri, has said.
The minister made the remarks in Cyanika Sector, Nyamagabe District, where, together with other government officials, he joined residents to mark the African Day of School Feeding, on Saturday.
The day was marked in Rwanda for the first time under the theme, “Homegrown school feeding, an investment in youth and children to harnessing the demographic dividend.”
At celebrations at Groupe Scolaire Cyanika, Musafiri said the African Day of School Feeding is a special day to reflect on the contributions that the school feeding programme has made, but also encourage people to take part in scaling it.
“Today is a reflection of the contributions that the school feeding programme has made in terms of not just building quality education, but also the eradication of poverty. It’s also part of laying plans and making more commitments to improve and promote this programme, as we believe this will add value to the education sector,” he said.
The minister noted that the programme currently benefits nursery, primary and secondary schools, whereby about 115 nursery schools in 15 districts benefit from it.
He said there are some 104 primary schools from Rutsiro, Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru, and Karongi districts that the programme benefits.
“We want this homegrown school feeding programme to benefit every child in Rwanda,” the minister said, adding that the main aim was to align the school feeding activities with other government homegrown schemes and engage the community more.
He cited Nyamagabe as one of the model places in the country where the programme has taken shape.
According to the Mayor of Nyamagabe, Philbert Mugisha, at least 88 per cent of students from schools in the district have lunch or breakfast from school.
Earlier, the minister participated in Umuganda where, together with provincial and district officials, and security personnel, planted vegetables and served milk to students as a symbol of promoting the use school gardens.
Tracking impact of the programme
Comprehensive evaluation of the impact of school feeding programme conducted by different research institutions across the world indicate the programme has improved academic performance among the students and the health status of the children.
The same has happened in Rwanda since the launch of the initiative. Statistics from the World Food Programme show that while more than 83,000 students have benefitted from the programme, there’s been an increased enrolment in schools over the years and that it has raised academic performance.
Anaclet Izabayo, a senior one student from GS Cyanika testifies: “The last four years, I have been taking lunch from here (at school). We now go to class, focus on the lessons and perform better, which was a different case before joining this school,” Izabayo told The New Times.
Meanwhile, Minister Musafiri rooted for more partnerships, collaboration and investments from NGOs, religious groups and the entire community so that more decent kitchens and dining halls are set up, as well the establishment of school gardens.