Schools question viability of ‘milk to all students’ programme

Pupils in Bugesera District being served milk. Sam Ngendahimana.

Schools are sceptical of a proposal by the Ministry of Education to provide milk to all students every day without increasing the cost of school feeding.

In February this year, the ministry announced that each school child should get at least half a litre of milk per day.

However, the Ministry said that including milk on the menu of meals that a student takes should not increase the fee charged on school feeding.

But the teachers question how the initiative will be implemented given that the milk will be an added cost.

With over three million students in both primary and secondary schools, over 1.5 million litres of milk would be consumed daily by the students if each takes a half litre of milk.

Marie Goretti Nizeyemariya, head teacher of Groupe Scolaire Muhura Taba, based in Gatsibo District, Eastern Province, welcomed the initiative but pointed out that the school has yet to get instructions on its feasibility.

The school has 1,050 students who each pay Rwf10,000 for school food per student per term (three month-period).

Nizeyemariya said a litre of milk in Gatsibo District was about Rwf200, which means that a half litre of milk to be given to every student would cost about Rwf100, amounting to Rwf9,000 in three months.

“Unless we get the milk free of charge, I don’t know how it will be possible” she said.

Pascal Ndahabo, head teacher of Groupe Scolaire Ndera in Gasabo District, said they were ready to comply if the government provides subsidies or considers other sources of funding.

“If school feeding fee remains the same, we cannot manage,” Ndahabo said, adding that parents were even struggling to cover the estimated Rwf200 for school feeding per student a day.

On the importance of the initiative, he said that children are motivated when they get milk, especially those from needy families who do not access adequate food.

“That [initiative] can itself be a means of tackling school dropout and it improves nutrition of children and their welfare in general,” he said.

Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Education have been in vain by press time as officials did not reply to requests by The New Times for information.

Going by statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, daily milk production is estimated to about 2.2 million litres which presents a huge market opportunity for dairy farmers in the country.

Currently, about 10 per cent of milk produced in Rwanda is processed by industries, the rest is sold at the local retail markets, or consumed by producing communities.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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