• Over 300,000 children benefiting
BUGESERA - Primary school pupils, their parents and teachers in Bugesera district, on Monday praised the World Food Programme (WFP) supported school feeding scheme.
This was noted while The New Times followed a day-long joint agency – WFP, USDA and USAID field visit to three WFP assisted primary schools – Mayange A, Biharagu and Nyakayaga, in Bugesera district.
At Mayange A, the head teacher Edmond Murasanyi was full of praise, and with good reason.
“Unlike it was before this programme, children no longer miss school many times. You see, they are encouragedt because they get food at school in addition to studying,” Murasanyi said.
“Before this school feeding programme started, I had difficulties while studying because I was always thinking about how I would return home to cook – it was straining for me and I couldn’t study well. Now I study well and perform better at school, I was the sixth in class last term,” said Sandrine Mahoro, a 14 year old pupil at Mayange A.
Another teacher, Jean Bosco Bigenimana noted that teaching has been made easier and grades significantly improved.
The WFP-supported school feeding component started in 2002 and the visiting group included in it the new WFP Country Director – Abdoulaye Balde and Babette Gainor of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
WFP is providing mid-day meals to 300,000 primary school children in 300 schools in most food-scarcity areas like Bugesera with plans to increase the assistance to 50,000 more children to accommodate the newly approved nine-year basic education system.
Many, including Bigenimana, however upbeat, noted that carrying on with the scheme after WFP’s departure is a challenge.
“I see this as a big challenge because the food brought here is in large quantities and, it will be difficult, but with a firm and good policy, it might be achievable,” Bigyenimana said.
Rosaria Dusenge, a parent, felt there was hope.
“We have a big and evident role in this school’s education – we provide the money used to pay the kitchen staff and money to buy and replace old utensils,” she said, noting that parents also contribute in cultivation activities through the food for work arrangement.
Another teacher Flora Mutezigaju said they were planning ahead because they know WFP’s assistance will finally end.
“We have many gardens, nearly four hectares and we plan to grow various food crops and we shall work together with parents, to make them understand that when the WFP finally leaves, the children must continue feeding from school,” Mutezigaju said.
Balde too was impressed and, optimistic on a hand-over strategy.
“The community here is very enthusiastic and we are happy to see that this is something they believe in and they are working towards doing it on their own.’’
“They have vegetables, they have cows, they have cassava, they have sorghum around here, I mean there is nothing here that the community cannot do and they are already doing it.”
USDA’s Gainor, observed much dedication, by the community in the schools, to rise to the challenge.
“I think that the community is what will ultimately make the decision whether to sustain this programme or not. and I think that you can see in this school that the community is coming and they are rising up to that challenge,” Gainor said.
WFP has provided 25 dairy cows to the tune of US$35,000 to 19 WFP assisted schools and the USDA is contributing US$27 million worth of mixed food commodities between 2008 and 2010.