School fees may increase this year as parents are required to contribute to the school-feeding programme currently facing a Rwf27 billion funding deficit.
The much awaited Ministry of Education subsidy increment did not materialize as the budget remained unchanged at Rwf56 per student per day.
Prime Minister Edouard Ngiremte on Tuesday told Parliament that Government allocation towards subsidizing meals under the expanded program to include over 2.5 million primary school learners this year was Rwf38 billion – almost half the Rwf65 billion the Ministry of Education initially sought from the treasury, according to details officials shared with Rwanda Today during budget negotiations in June.
The ministry proposal was to increase subsidy from the longstanding Rwf56 per child per day to at least Rwf100 per child per day, inclusive of costs beyond foodstuffs such as building kitchens, paying cooks, and others.
Parents would contribute Rwf70 per child per day, as per the initial proposal.
According to school managers, even as Government proposed to increase subsidy to Rwf100 per child per day, there would still be a gap of Rwf55 to be filled by parents who in most schools contribute Rwf12,000 per term as their share of the school meal budget.
The program also suffers disruptions linked to non-payment by the vulnerable families, lack of mechanism to bring all parents to comply, as well as delays in disbursement school feeding grants, which expose schools to unmanageable debt burden.
The funding challenges for the school feeding program this week took center stage when members of parliament put Prime minister Edouard Ngirente to task over Government activities in the education sector.
While responding to lawmakers’ questions about possibility of increasing funding to ease burden on schools and subsequent impact on learning outcomes, Mr Ngirente decried the high cost of the program, adding that it called for parents to chip in.
He was also not specific as to whether Government planned to increase its subsidies.
“It is a problem that we have looked into for a long time and it isn’t easy to get needed budget as Government. We are doing everything possible to operationalize this program, and parents have to play their part,” he said, adding that institutions were formulating a policy that would determine modalities for parents to pay their share of the budget.
The Government has been contributing Rwf8 billion annually as subsidy for day meals in the 9-12 year education schools with over 700, 000 student population, which rose to Rwf38 billion for additional 2.5 million learners in public and state aided primary schools nationwide.
According to heads of schools, the meal subsidy remained unchanged at Rwf56 even as learning resumed under a pandemic induced new normal where they have to meet students upkeep for a longer than usual school term of five months.