The Ministry of Education has warned schools against sending students back home in case their parents or guardians failed to pay for their lunch on time.
This came in the wake of reports that at least 50 per cent of students at Groupe Scolaire Rubona in Gatsibo District had been turned away on two occasions in recent days over failure to pay lunch fees.
The school administration argued they suspected some of the students had diverted money meant to cover their school lunch at school into personal pleasures, because they were reluctant to return with their parents or guardians whenever they were asked to.
The national school-lunch programme was initiated to help consolidate the achievements registered in the country’s efforts to achieve universal basic education.
A hungry schoolchild can hardly pay attention in class, and can easily go on to drop out of school altogether.
The government committed to cover lunch cost for students from the most vulnerable households as per the Ubudehe stratification programme. Nonetheless the school-lunch initiative still faces serious challenges, and schools are likely to deny lunch to students whose parents or guardians have not paid the fee or even send them back home.
Either way, this could have far-reaching consequences on government’s ambition to reach universal basic education targets.
To ensure that the programme achieves its intended objectives, there is need for every party involved to play their rightful role.
While schools should not rush into expelling a student over the lunch fees, parents need no reminder that their children’s welfare is their responsibility. That obligation does not in any way diminish when the child is at school and, therefore, parents must be seen to be doing the needful to ensure their children do not go hungry while at school.
Equally, the Ministry of Education, local government authorities and other players need to work more closely with schools and the underprivileged parents to ensure that, at the end of the day, no schoolchild goes hungry or drops out of school.
There is need to work out a sustainable solution and to ensure ownership of the school feeding programme. This calls for a thorough review of the implementation of this otherwise noble initiative.