EDITORIAL: Broad support key to the success of school-feeding programme

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EDITORIAL: Broad support key to the success of school-feeding programme
EDITORIAL: Broad support key to the success of school-feeding programme

Africa-PressRwanda. The Prime Minister told Parliament last week that the government was planning to spend some Rwf38 billion in the first year of a broader school-feeding programme, which will cover all public schools.

The scheme is expected to start next month, January 2021.

With a target of reaching at least 3.3 million primary and secondary schoolchildren during school term time across the country, the revised school-feeding programme is a gigantic undertaking that will need the participation of a wide spectrum of stakeholders to succeed.

First, it is difficult to envision the sustainability of the programme without active involvement of parents and the community at large. Ensuring that our children don’t go hungry, particularly during school time, is a noble responsibility that should appeal to several players, including private businesses and the corporate world, as well as civil society organisations.

This is particularly critical as a significant number of parents are unable to make financial contributions toward the cause – even as the government is rightly considering different options through which such parents can meaningfully partake in the effort.

In recent days, inspired largely by his own experience growing up as a child, Manchester United’s star forward Marcus Rashford has become a leading campaigner for free meals to schoolchildren from poor families in the UK, shining a new light on the matter.

Indeed, school-based meals have proved to be a lifeline for millions of youngsters around the world and a key driver for student retention and good grades both in developing and developed countries. School-feeding allows students from poor backgrounds to concentrate on their studies without having to worry about where their next meal will come from.

It is, therefore, only appropriate for any people-centred government to dedicate a budget for such a programme. Nonetheless, as already indicated, it is next to impossible for governments to successfully go it alone without leaving out any deserving student, much less in developing countries.

In the case of Rwanda, while the school-feeding programme is a long-term undertaking, there is a need to draw from previous initiatives that received broad support from a wide-range of stakeholders with a view to ensuring that the scheme does not only start strongly but is sustained once it is finally rolled out.

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