Schools under the 12-Year Basic Education (12YBE) programme have appealed to government to expedite the disbursement of money to support the feeding of students from vulnerable families.
Following the introduction of 12YBE, in which classes are offered for free, the National Leadership Retreat last year resolved to introduce compulsory meals for students at school, which was supposed to be paid for by the parents.
However, it later emerged that some students whose parents did not have capacity to pay for the meals started dropping out, which prompted government to intervene.
The government support was supposed to start with the beginning of this academic year in February, but almost a month into the second term, no school has received any money.
“After we were promised government support, we decided to use the money to feed even those whose parents had failed to pay, the money was for other projects and now we have used it all,” Patrick Munyurangabo, the head teacher of Groupe Scolaire Rubona, in Gatsibo District, said.
The contributions vary from Rwf8,000 to Rwf12,000 per term per student depending on the school.
Those to benefit from the support are supposed to be determined by the social stratification programme, Ubudehe.
“It was a major relief for us when we were informed that government would chip in. As parents, it is impossible to feed some students and leave others out, but the delay in releasing the money is affecting us gravely,” he said.
Other measures that were devised by schools, especially those in the countryside include to encourage parents to contribute foodstuff, but still not many can afford, according to the head teacher.
Faustin Rutembesa, the head teacher of Groupe Scolaire Cyahafi in Nyarugenge District, said soon, some districts risk of being dragged to courts law by banks over indebtedness.
“All students have lunch irrespective of whether their parents contributed or not but this is having a major toll on us because we do not have budget for it, we have been working with hope of the government funds but it is taking long,” said Rutembesa.
However, some insist that in most cases, parents who cannot afford to pay the money can at least afford to bring food, saying all that is needed is sensitisation to ensure parents feed their own children.
Claver Rubumbira, the head teacher of GS Mutara in Rulindo District, said that they embarked on sensitising parents on their obligations and, as of this term, only 20 students cannot afford to pay the Rwf10,000 contribution.
“We are taking care of those students so that they cannot miss class and it is not so much of a burden. We are, however, looking forward to the government support for these few,” he said, urging his colleagues to engage parents.
When contacted, Sylvie Uwimbabazi, the director of school feeding programme at the Ministry of Education, said there are set procedures that the ministry cannot circumvent to disburse the money.
“We were meant to start supporting these students at the beginning of the first term but things did not go the way we had expected. The schools should not give up helping the students. It is going to take another few months,” said Uwimbabazi.
According to Uwimbabazi, the support can only be accommodated in the next fiscal year, which starts in July.