Rwanda: Communities Not Ready to Own School Feeding

During a consultative two-day meeting last week, Brazilian officials explained to their Rwandan counterparts how they manage to run the school-feeding programme in their country.

This comes at a time when the local programme, which had so far been run with assistance of the World Food Programme (WFP), was supposed to have been transferred to the local communities. Yet that has been a failure.

To move to the community-owned approach, beginning in May 2011 WFP reduced its food provisions from five to three days per week, while the community was to take responsibility for the two other days. According to officials at the Ministry of Education, the plan was for the community's share to increase steadily, and WFP assistance to phase out by the end of 2012.

That, however, seems not to have worked due to the levels of poverty and food insecurity in the areas assisted by WFP. Worse, in the majority of the schools covered, children only receive food three days a week when it is provided by the UN organization, while they go hungry the other days.

According to the Mineduc permanent secretary, Sharon Haba, on 308 schools assisted by WFP, only ten successfully managed to continue offering meals three days per week with the help of the local community, while 110 have been partially successful and the rest has failed. "The greatest challenges are faced in districts of highest food insecurity and poverty," Haba says, adding Northern and Westernern provinces are the worst. The WFP programme is now only remaining in Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe districts.

The impact of malnutrition

For Haba, there are several reasons for this failure. First, the most unsuccessful districts are the ones with a majority of the households affected by malnourishment. Those are districts like Nyabihu, Rutsiro, Karongi, Nyamasheke and Rusizi of the Western province, and parts of Nyamagabe and Nyaruguru districts located in the South.

In all of those parts of the country, a number of 33 to 43 percent of the households have unacceptable food consumption. Haba observes that nationally 43.4% of children under five are stunted, most of them from poorer families. Topping the list in this respect are districts like Burera and Gakenke of the Northern part of the country and Ngororero of the West.

Advantages of school feeding

The promise of at least one nutritious meal each school day boosts enrolment and promotes regular attendance. It motivates parents to send their children to school instead of keeping them at home to work or care for siblings.

Not going to school on an empty stomach also helps improve school health and nutrition; students are able to concentrate better on their lessons, and children from poor families who cannot always offer them a balanced diet are ensured of good nutrition.

Read the original article from All Africa, written by Jean-Christophe Nsansimana, 4 March 2013.


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