The re-introduction of the School Feeding Programme (SFP) has led to an increased enrolment in public primary schools in Kwale County, according to head teachers.
Speaking at a retreat of the Kwale branch of Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) at Diani, the teachers lauded the government for restoring the programme, saying it keeps children in school and helps them concentrate on learning. .
The Association’s Branch Chairman, Chirima Mgala said the school meals go a longway insustaining children from poor families who barely survive in times of food shortages in drought prone areas of the county.
Mgala said the school dropout rate had also reduced as the food attracts children to school hence boosting class retention rate.
“As teachers we are happy with the idea of providing meals to pupils as enrolment has significantly improved in schools,” he said citing as an example his own school, where enrolment has improved from 600 to 1,000 after the return of the feeding programme.
However, last week the Education Ministry raised concern over possible downscaling of the school feeding programme due to budget cuts.
The government has allocated Sh.16billion from Sh.2.1billion in this financial year.
This will deal a big blow to the project just less than one year since the exit of the World Food Programme (WFP) that was its biggest financier.
The Basic Education Principal Secretary (PS), Dr. Belio Kipsang said the cuts will affect efforts to retain children in school in target arid and semi arid areas because of a reduction in the number of pupils receiving food.
At the same time, Chirima took issue with parents in Kwale for refusing to pay school activity levies and using the free primary education policy as an excuse for defaulting.
This, he said, had seen local schools fail to participate in regional and national inter-school competitions because of budgetary constraints.
“Ever since free education started, parents no longer pay the levy, arguing that it is the government’s responsibility hence paralysing extra-curricular activities that nurture talents in children,” he added.
He urged the county government to consider chipping in to enable young talented kids to take part in extra-curricular activities especially with the introduction of competency based curriculum.
By Constance Mwandembo/James Muchai