Parents and Teachers Associations are worried delays in disbursement of government subsidies towards the school feeding programme may leave many places of learning with cumulative arrears and debts.
While noting that a lot of progress had been registered in implementing the programme, especially the ownership element, parents asked the government to hasten its pace in distributing money towards the programme.
“Some of this money might take more than three to four months to reach school accounts and that affects the implementation of the entire programme leaving some schools with unnecessary debts and or arrears to suppliers,” said head of PTA at Groupe Scolaire St. Paul Muko in Rusizi District Christian Bushayija.
Mr Bushayija added that there was a notable improvement in implementation of the programme, saying if money from government is released in good time, his school can do even better.
“At our school, we are yet to reach the level we wish this programme would be implemented, but at least students do not forgo lunch. They attend afternoon classes. Parents have understood that this programme is theirs and relevant to their children’s education,” he added.
According to Mr Bushayija, parents at Groupe Scolaire St. Paul Muko have been contributing at least Rwf10,000 per semester to run the programme, adding that even children who come from needy families have been benefitting from those contributions.
While the government pledges to work with local leaders to make sure money for the programme is disbursed in time, it has also sought to increase the budget by around Rwf5 billion from the Rwf4.8 billion in 2018.
The increase, according the State Minister in charge of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Isaac Munyakazi, is in the revised budget that is yet to be adopted by parliament ,
Dr Munyakazi said the ministry will issue a revised policy on school feeding programme followed by instructions to ensure its successful implementation.
According to the minister, the government wants to work closely with districts so that children at schools do not eat maize, sweet potatoes, rice and beans but also drink milk and other nutritious food items.
“There are a lot of milk centres that have been talking about over-supply of milk. We want to work with different partners and districts to make sure schools benefit from this surplus,” he added.
The school feeding programme, started about 10 years ago, has three parts. The first part supports districts like Karongi, Rutsiro, Ngororero and Nyaruguru, where childrenreceive porridge, milk and food items grown in the nearby fields.
The second part targets lower primary pupils, who get a cup of milk twice a week while the third part, which targets boarding and day schools, is based on parents’ contributions and receives some subsidies from government.