Huye District has embarked on a mobilisation campaign to raise funds towards the School Feeding Programme, to cater for learners from vulnerable families.
The programme was introduced by government last year, in a bid to provide lunch for school children, mainly from Nine and 12 Year Basic Education. This was to ensure they concentrate on their studies and reduce the dropout rate.
Under the current feeding programme, contributions are made by parents, but it has been realised that vulnerable parents have difficulties getting the required contribution which is a burden to schools.
“There are initiatives undertaken like farming at schools, which are supporting this programme. But to boost it further, agriculture cooperatives have all committed to help the students from vulnerable families by contributing some of their produce to schools,” said the Huye District Mayor, Eugène Kayiranga Muzuka in an interview with The New Times.
He said that though it’s the responsibility of parents to educate their children, the community has some degree of responsibility too, especially when that parent is not in position to provide.
He said they are doing it through mobilisation and people have understood it, adding that by the beginning of the next academic year, they will have tangible results.
He said everyone will voluntarily contribute depending on their capacity.
Importance of the programme
Josephine Mupenzi, the president of UCORIHU- a union of cooperatives for rice growers in Huye, said though they are yet to reach out to all the cooperatives, the initiative.
“For the child to study well they need proper nutrition, so we fully support this programme,” she said.
Théodette Musabyimana, the acting director of Groupe Scolaire Rukira in Huye Sector said the programme has helped students concentrate more on studies.
“Before the introduction of the programme, students took advantage of lunch time to indulge in misconduct and there was no way for us to follow up…others would not return to class for afternoon lessons,” she said.
She said that initially, they had set the parents’ contribution towards the programme at Rwf5,000 a month or Rwf15,000 per trimester but only about 27 per cent could afford it and it locked out a big number of students.
When they reduced the amount to Rwf3,000 per month, she said, uptake increased to 92 per cent.
“We reduced the amount to ensure that every student gets the meal at school. We also partnered with the sector leaders to mobilise people through parents-teacher committees (PTC) and other channels, educating them on the importance of the programme,” she said.
She said they also facilitate parents to pay the contributions in installments on weekly basis. She noted that people should have the culture of helping one another for the better implementation of school feeding programme.
The dean of students at GS Rukira, Dative Nyirahakizimana said before the introduction of school feeding, absenteeism was rampant adding that it put female students at risk.
“A female student could not resist when offered a biscuit or soda by unscrupulous men because she was hungry, which is makes them more vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies and all other risks involved.”
Jeannine Uwamurera, a resident of Ngoma Sector, Huye District said paying contributions in installments was very helpful and eased the burden on parents.
She said the district’s initiative to ensure that even the vulnerable students get meals while at school is good mainly because it helps them to learn without any distractions.
The Huye District vice mayor in charge of social affairs, Christine Niwemugeni said that in the district, there are 34 schools under Nine and 12 years basic education with a combined enrollment of 10,493 students.
She said, this year, 21.6 per cent of the students had difficulties paying the contributions approved by parents to the school feeding programme.