School-feeding programme under spotlight

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Limpho Sello

World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Mary Njoroge says the Government of Lesotho has shown great commitment towards ensuring the dream of providing free and compulsory primary education and free school meals is achieved.

Ms Njoroge was speaking during the Africa Day of School Feeding launch at Masianokeng Primary School on Tuesday. She explained providing food in schools is a wise investment for a better tomorrow as this helps learners from food-insecure families to attend classes.

The Africa Day of School Feeding was launched in the Republic of Niger on 1 March 2016, under the theme: ‘Homegrown School Feeding, a Conduit for Africa’s Sustainable Development’.

Ms Njoroge said: “We should all invest in a tomorrow that will see our children having the capacity to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, continue developing Lesotho and live healthier and fulfilling lives.”

In Lesotho, WFP began providing food in schools in 1965 before the government started gradually taking over the programme in the 1990s.

Ms Njoroge noted government was now fully funding the programme and strongly believes Lesotho has a lot to share with other African nations as far as school-feeding is concerned.

“The Government of Lesotho has, indeed, taken a stand against hunger and malnutrition in primary schools to grow an educated society.  For some countries that would like to know more about schoolfeeding, I recommend Lesotho as an excellent case study,” said Ms Njoroge.

She thanked the government for taking ownership of the programme and demonstrating the willingness to learn more on how to sustainably manage the school-feeding scheme.

“I would also like to especially thank the Ministry of Education and Training which works closely with WFP on a day-to-day basis. We value and cherish this great partnership. May it live long for further development of school-feeding and continued improvement in the quality of education.”

Currently, government and WFP are providing two meals per day to 400 000 students in public primary schools and 50 000 students in preschools throughout the country.

Meanwhile, during Tuesday’s ceremony, WFP handed over three vehicles to the Ministry of Education that will help to enhance inspections of the programme in schools throughout the country.

Education and Training Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse said the cars were going to complement one vehicle that was being used to drive inspectors to different schools.

“You can imagine how difficult it has been for our officers to regularly monitor the programme countrywide. It is little wonder that my office is often inundated with complaints from caterers, cooks and schools themselves about inefficiencies in the food logistics and payment processes,” Dr Phamotse said.

The Minister said she hoped an improvement in monitoring would help address challenges experienced in some schools.

“I would like to further assure WFP that these vehicles will be used for their intended purposes and help improve the school-feeding programme,” she said.

Dr Phamotse further said the school-feeding programme had been a long journey of selfless service to Basotho children through the provision of nutritious meals.

“Today our country boasts of high literacy rates because these meals provide the needed impetus for the children to attend school regularly. Indeed, it is as a result of this collaboration with WFP that Lesotho managed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3 on the Universal Access to Primary Education,” the Minister said.

“Today we stand here with our heads high because we now have a policy framework in place to guide the implementation of a sustainable school-feeding programme, thanks to both the technical and financial support provided by WFP.”

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