Feeding programme to boost performance

The recent government leadership retreat recommended an appropriate school feeding programme for learners aimed at improving the quality of education in the country. The programme demands that on top of existing feeding interventions like the ‘One Child One Cup of Milk’ twice a week, schools across the country should provide meals to students daily. It also recommends an increase of micronutrients through enrichment of food materials to cater for all nutritional needs of the students.
The government is working around the clock to ensure that every student is served a nutritious meal at school. /Timothy Kisambira
The government is working around the clock to ensure that every student is served a nutritious meal at school. /Timothy Kisambira

The recent government leadership retreat recommended an appropriate school feeding programme for learners aimed at improving the quality of education in the country.

The programme demands that on top of existing feeding interventions like the ‘One Child One Cup of Milk’ twice a week, schools across the country should provide meals to students daily. It also recommends an increase of micronutrients through enrichment of food materials to cater for all nutritional needs of the students.

However, the mandate was left to the Parents Teachers Associations to decide the mode of payment and amount (food or money).

For students in boarding schools, this might not mean much since they eat breakfast every morning and have lunch and supper daily. However, the day scholars cannot wait to see this proposal implemented. And they have good reasons for that.

Life in a day school

In many schools, learners go all day without lunch. The Education Times  early this month set camp at GS Saint Albert in Nyarubaka sector, Kamonyi district and for almost a full day  observed how the 1,700 students spent their time.
At lunch time, students whose families stay nearby were allowed to go home for lunch on condition that they returned within thirty minutes. But majority of students could not leave because they stay far away.

“For us it cannot work. We just stay here (at school) because we cannot go home for lunch and be back within 30 minutes,” said Xaverine Uwurukundo, the school head girl, whose home is an hour’s walkfrom the school.

But skipping lunch has costs.
Uwurukundo says while those who go home for lunch are active in the afternoon, those who don’t usually doze through the lessons which affects their performance.

Origin of challenge

According to Thacien Nsengayire, the school headmaster, the students used to be served lunch until 2013. He explains that from 2009, the World Food Programme (WFP) used to feed all the students with an aim of reducing the school drop out rate and improving the performance.

He said the WFP used to provide maize flour, beans and vegetable oil.

However in 2012, the organisation decreased on its quantities, leaving the parents to foot the bill for lunch on two out of the five school days.

“In order to fill the gap left by WFP, we asked parents to contribute three kilogrammes of cassava flour and 1kg of beans for every child per term and life went on smoothly,” says Nsengayire.

He adds that when the feeding programme started, students were very healthy and utilised their time at school profitably hence competing well against boarding students.
Unfortunately that would be short-lived.

Nsengayire said when WFP completely pulled out in 2013, the school asked parents to increase their contribution to 7kg of cassava flour and 3kg of beans per term.
“We pushed until a point when we realised parents were caught between a rock and a hard place. They could not afford it considering that many had more than one child in school so we decided to stop it,” said Nsengayire.

Students’ old good memories

Students say the lack of food at school has
affected their performance and level of concentration.
“When I go home my attention immediately shifts to domestic work so I cannot read nor do homework which annoys my teachers. But those days when we used to have lunch at school, I would stay behind and first finish my homework since I used to be satisfied,” said Sabin Nyandwi, a father of two, in Senior Three.

Many students told Education Times that when they leave school early, they cannot do homework from home because they either have no electricity or have to help their parents with domestic work making it almost impossible to study privately.

And this situation is not limited to GS Saint Albert alone. In rural areas like Nyaruguru district, many students have to walk for over two hours to school and back home despite  spending the day on an empty stomach.

According to Philbert Uwamahoro, the director of GS Ruramba, Nyaruguru district, a 12 YBE institution with over 700 students, hunger can lead discourage some students from continuing with school.

“It is only resilient students that keep going in such circumstances,” Uwamahoro said, adding that parents of his school failed to raise Rwf 12,000 for meals per term.
But the problem is not only in rural schools.

It was observed that there was also an effect on the schools in urban towns. According to Marta Yankurije, the inspector of education in the City of Kigali, some schools like GS Musave in Gasabo district have many students who stay far from the school and thus need support.

Ray of hope

However, all hope is not lost. An official in the Ministry of Education who preferred anonymity told The Education Times that less than two years since WFP stopped supplying foodstuff to schools, the organisation has decided to review its decision.

It is currently supplying food to selected schools in the districts of Nyamagabe and Nyaruguru in southern Province but plans to roll out its services to all the schools in Rwanda in the near future.

Its role, however, will be determined after Mineduc’s comprehensive study of the feeding programme across the country. The study, which is expected to be finalized this year, is expected to indicate how much each stakeholder — the ministry, parents and WFP – will contribute to the learners’ meals. The study will also seek homegrown solutions where parents of different schools may after deliberation choose to either contribute foodstuffs or money.

According to Janvier Gasana, the deputy director in charge of quality in Rwanda Education Board, school feeding is important in every child’s academic journey and parents must pay keen attention to it.

He says: “We are suggesting that parents and schools sit and decide what they can afford, so that children can stay vigorous and study without dozing.”

Gasana says the proposal demands that primary school students with double shifts be served food at break time (10:00am) and then go home later for lunch.

In secondary (12YBE), given that students leave school at around 2:00pm and have to walk for long before reaching home, the suggestion is that they be served food at lunch time.

What do you think about school food?

Diedonne Harerimana, pupil

At school we always have food. At 10:00am, we are
served porridge for breakfast and rice or posho and beans for lunch. I find this food nice since I am now used to it. Although some students don’t like it and want to skip meals, the teachers always push them to have it.

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Niyomugabo Eustache, pupil.

School is school. Even if you like the food or not, you will be forced to eat. It’s hard sitting in a class room when you are hungry. They used to give us milk when we were in nursery but nowadays its porridge at breakfast and posho plus beans at lunch time.

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Amani Anasi, a pupil

We usually leave school at midday and we don’t get anything like lunch at school. We are supposed to have all our food at home. I think that the reason why we don’t get food at school like other schools surrounding us is because, we leave school early. I would love to have food at school because sometimes you are so hungry and craving for something to eat.

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Favatwa Nzabambarora

I can’t concentrate without first eating. I usually eat food at school but skip it sometimes especially when poorly prepared.
But we are different, some like the food at school while others don’t.

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Aloysius Muhoyimomo, pupil

The food at school is fine although I prefer to eat at home. They usually prepare posho, beans and rice.

 

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