By Hileni Nembwaya
MANY pupils in the northern regions are faced with hunger as the school feeding programme has been suspended due to the ongoing drought in the country.
The number of hungry pupils is said to have sharply increased in the schools; with rising numbers of malnourished learners.
A source told Confidente that the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture suspended the school feeding programme after companies that sell maize meal increased their prices earlier their year thus forcing schools to discontinue the programme.
“Our region (Oshikoto) has been without the school feeding programme since the beginning of this year and many school-going children attend school on empty stomachs forcing many others to stop going to school as a result. The directorate has been numb on the matter and we do not know for how long there will be no food because pupil’s performance could be interrupted badly (sic),” said a source.
Many of the school-going children in the rural areas are from improvised households where they experience hunger due to poverty.
Oshikoto region has total number of about 209 state schools where the feeding programme is said to be active.
Oshikoto region education director, Lameck Kafidi said that the programme has been inactive in the region for some months after the Ministry issued out a statement stating that the programme will be discontinued due to the delay of commodity in supply.
“We told our schools to make an alternative plan when the blend is not available, to take money from their education grants and buy food for their pupils while the matter is being restored. Many schools have not suspended the programme,” said Kafidi.
Education Ministry, Permanent Secretary Sanet Steenkamp responded to the crisis saying that the Ministry is experiencing challenges with blending of maize meal due to scarcity of maize within the country and also due to the maize prices which have increased drastically since December 2015.
“Despite these challenges, the Ministry is working around the clock to ensure that learners will have meals in schools. The feeding programme has not been stopped, and provision of the daily meal provided under the school feeding programme continues,” said Steenkamp.
She further said that although delays were experienced during the delivery of the maize blend for the second term, this has been addressed and so far the blend has commenced in regions such as Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena, Khomas, Zambezi, Omaheke, Hardap and Oshikoto.
When asked whether the blend has reached Oshikoto region, Kafidi could not tell saying that he has not yet been briefed on the matter.
The Governor of Kunene region also echoed the same sentiments saying that the feeding programme in her region needs to improve in order to meet the demands pupils at school hostels and in community schools.
The education director for Ohangwena region, Isaack Hamatwi could not be reached for comment as well as Hileni Amukana for Oshana region.
Currently the programme is fully managed by the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture with technical assistance from the World Food Program (WFP).
Access to education is ensured through the provision of a mid-morning meal to more than 320 000 beneficiaries through the Namibia School Feeding Programme that amounts to more than N$90 million annually.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015