Why school canteens should not be banned

Editor, RE: “Stakeholders divided on ban of school canteens” (The New Times, October 7).
Pupils of Excella  School have their lunch. (File)
Pupils of Excella School have their lunch. (File)


RE: “Stakeholders divided on ban of school canteens” (The New Times, October 7).

What if one of those decision makers in the Ministry of Education were ordered to eat matooke, potatoes, beans and water only from January to December with no right to have access to milk if they wanted a change? Would they like it? Of course not!

The idea that canteens will create social classes is lame, to say the least. Our country is not a classless society and no country can claim to be.

A schoolboy or girl already knows that the neighbour next door is richer than their father, has a car and their father does not; that they live in a house with no electricity while the neighbour’s has; and even peers at school wear shoes of different quality.

So, how would banning canteens convince schoolchildren that they are economically equal with everyone else? What would be the purpose of trying to convince them so?

Personally, I support the idea of not having commercial restaurants on school premises that sell the food that one would find in any restaurant.

However, I do not find anything wrong with canteens that sell snacks, ripe banana, soaps, cookies, milk, pens, erasers and soft drinks, among others.

During our time in exile, some of us went to schools that had canteens, but we did not feel affected by the purchasing power of rich local school children, nor did we resort to stealing so we could compete with them.

Canteens should be seen as an area where our children can learn to socialise. Children with money will buy for their friends who do not have and one day the table will turn and those who previously did not have will get money and remember their friends who may then be broke.

Others will visit the canteen just to hang around their friends to discuss all sorts of things not related to their studies.

Their fathers back home do a similar thing every evening when they flock to bars to meet their friends and socialise on few bottles of beers and nyama choma.

In the same way, the beer the parents sip is called Gahuzamiryango, the snacks schoolchildren share at the canteen should also be treated as their ‘gahuzamiryango’.

So, school canteens should not be seen as something that will turn our children into robbers. Does anyone know any parent who broke into a shop to steal money to buy beer in the evening after work?

In my view, therefore, canteens are one of the meeting places at school that will help our children learn or improve on their social skills.

Finally, it is such controversial decisions like banning canteens at schools that give additional munitions to foreign anti-Rwanda journalists to keep lying to the world that our country is tightly controlled, when in reality they are expressing their anger at the order we have in our social and political systems (I am not contracting myself here — banning canteens has nothing to do with establishing order).

Do not get surprised if soon, they report in their papers that our President ordered our schoolchildren to eat the same food every day. You would think that I am exaggerating here; they once wrote that the President himself erased an entire slum neighbourhood to build modern housing.

The impression they try to give is that he alone woke up one day and ordered the slum demolished. They were criticising one of the projects to modernise the city as part of the Kigali Master Plan.



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