The national government School Feeding programme has increased enrolment, retention rates and helped to reduce cases of absenteeism of children who miss school due to lack of food at public primary schools in West Pokot County.
According to Pokot South Sub-county Director, Charles Kitur, the enrolment of pupils and retention rates at public primary schools across the county has increased since the introduction of the school feeding programme in the county in the year 2018.
“We had 186,708 pupils in the year 2017 in public primary school before the onset of the school feeding programme and currently, we now have 196,673 pupils in West Pokot County. The programme has attracted more children into school due to availability of lunch time meal and also helps reduce cases of absenteeism to those who miss school because of lack of food thereby reducing their dropout,” Mr Kitur pointed out.
Mr Kitur noted that the programme has provided a healthy diet to children whose families struggle to get a meal and help prevent the school-going children who were forced to do odd jobs to earn a meal.
“The programme has attracted more children who were denied the right to attend school in order for them to take care of their young siblings as their parents went out to put food on the table for the family,” he noted.
He pointed out that they have received rice and beans worth millions of shillings from the government of Kenya in conjunction with the World Food Programme adding they were expecting more food with cooking oil for this year’s academic calendar for all public primary schools across the county.
Head Teacher, Julius Arusei for Makutano Public Primary School in Kapenguria of West Pokot County during an interview at the school on Monday noted that the school feeding programme has helped reduce child hunger at school, encouraged school attendance and improved education standards.
“In Makutano Primary we have around 1300 students and all of them are served meals, the meals make them feel good and they are able to play with their friends, it makes them very active in class and attend school regularly because they know food is available,” Mr Arusei narrated.
He explained that children are attentive when they have something in their stomachs before starting class and noted an improvement in pupils’ class performance especially those whose families have no access to a meal or cannot get all the meals required in a day for their healthy growth.
“Classes can be difficult, students can’t learn without food in their stomachs. They become dull when they have not eaten a meal but when they have a meal every day, it helps them to focus on their studies, exams and finally they succeed,” he said.
He said parents only contributed Sh50 per term for meals preparation in school and for payments of workers.
According to West Pokot County Director of Education, Fred Kiiru, the school feeding programme has enhanced the efficiency of the education system by improving enrolment, attendance, reducing dropouts’ cases, and boosting school completion rate.
He lauded the programme and called on coordination, cooperation, and collaboration among the stakeholders on the county level in ensuring the sustainability of the school feeding programme and for its success.
The school feeding programme is a social development initiative by the Government of Kenya (GOK) with the World Food Programme which began in the year 1980 as an instrument for achieving the millennium goals on quality education and zero hunger.
The Government of Kenya aligns the school feeding programme with its vision 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The school feeding programme supports pupils in public primary schools in Arid and semi-areas across the country.
By Anthony Melly