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All schoolchildren to get meals as government reviews policy

Students take lunch as part of the school feeding programme at Groupe Scolaire Kimironko on November 16. Photo: Dan Nsengiyumva

The school feeding programme is set to change in order to cater to all primary and secondary school children once the proposed policy by the Ministry of Education comes into force

Under the proposed policy, parents’ contribution to the school feeding programme will be compulsory.

 

“It is the first time we are going to feed all students in the country,” Valentine Uwamariya, the Minister for Education, said.

 

Currently, the government provides Rwf56 per day as support to each student’s feeding while at school. The money caters for students in public and government-aided secondary schools.

 

While Uwamariya acknowledges that the contribution per student is small, given the large number of students it has a significant impact on the government budget.

However, schools and lawmakers have persistently asked the government to increase its contribution.

“The government will continue to provide such support, and it increased because instead of considering secondary school children only, the programme is being extended to primary school children,” Uwamariya said. “Because children in primary schools are many, the government’s contribution to might double or even quadruple.”

As of end 2019, public and government aided primary schools had 2.4 million pupils while secondary schools had over 649,000 students, according to official data. Based on these numbers, it means that some 3 million school-going children

Government has been partnering with parents to implement the programme, but some parents were not concerned when they did not make their contribution to the programme.

“We want parent understands that making their contribution to the programme is mandatory,” she said.

Moreover, the feasibility of the move is not clear enough, at least considering the challenges the programme faces, particularly stemming from the fact that some parents cannot afford the Rwf10,000 contribution per term.

For instance, in February 2019, the Ministry of Education instructed all schools to provide at least half a litre of milk to every student. Some schools have not yet complied with the instruction, citing a shortage of funding.

The government has now proposed various options for parents.

“A parent can provide foodstuffs or another form of support depending on their ability,” she said, underscoring that students should have equal access to meals at school.

Parents react

Marie Jeanne Ntirenganya, a parent from Nyagatare District, told The New Times that she has two children pursuing secondary school studies under the twelve-year basic education programme. She has been paying Rwf13,000 per term; meaning Rwf26,000 in three months for the two children.

“I struggle to get that money,” she said. “I also have two children in primary school. It will be an extra burden.”

She suggested that primary pupils should have meals from home.

Edouard Habyarimana, a resident of Gasabo District told The New Times that he has been making Rwf5,000 monthly contribution to the school feeding programme for his child in twelve-year basic education.

He has another child in primary school, where the feeding initiative has not yet started.

“The programme facilitated students to get food at school instead of trekking long distances to have meals from home and return to school to continue the studies,” he said, albeit expressing that it will be a challenge for him to make a contribution.

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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