26 February 2013

Rwanda Learns From Brazil's Experience in School Feeding

The promise of at least one nutritious meal each school day boosts enrolment and promotes regular attendance. Parents are motivated to send kids to school instead of keeping them at home to work. In this regard, the ministry of education is hosting a two day national consultation meeting to formulate a way forward for a nationally school feeding program.

The inititiative is supported by the government of Brazil through the Brazil-based World Food Program's center of excellence against hunger and with the technical support of the WFP Rwanda.

"We believe that school feeding is an effective means to channel vital nourishment to children, particularly the poor, increasing school enrollment and retention while improving academic achievement and reducing dropout as well as contributing in the fight against poverty and hunger, and helping to reduce diseases," said Sharon Haba, the permanent secretary in the ministry of education.

Haba added that when school feeding programs are linked to local agricultural production, they also ensure a regular and substantial demand on the local market.

Acknowledging the school feeding's potential contribution to economic development and poverty reduction, Haba stated that Mineduc in collaboration with other ministries, has a desire to develop a community-owned school feeding program.

Erasme Rwanamiza, the DG of education planning at the ministry, said that the meeting aims at helping Rwanda formulate a school feeding program in its context.

Dr Rwanamiza said that a group of delegates from various ministries went to Brazil on a study tour mid-2012 in order to learn about the Brazilian experience in fighting hunger, poverty and promoting food security through school feeding.

"The team found that the Brazilian school feeding program was instrumental in the country's achievement of educational, social and economic progress. Several aspects of the Brazilian school feeding were found relevant to Rwanda's context where, similarly, ambitious development objectives are envisaged and strived for, with poverty reduction strategies rounded on increasing the resilience of the population and building upon home-grown initiatives."

Following the study tour, a Brazilian delegation composed of government officials and WFP personnel visited Rwanda and in the wake of their visit, Rwanda requested WFP's assistance in conducting an investment case study in school feeding in the country as well as systematic cots analysis of ongoing programs to inform decision-making about the design the program.

School feeding in Rwanda is not new. According to Mineduc, Rwanda subsides the provision of meals for secondary schools in over 1000 schools across the country while the ministry of agriculture reaches 100 primary schools through its 'One Cup of milk program.' In addition, WFP-assisted school feeding has been implemented in over 300 schools since 2002, when it was initiated as a response to increased food insecurity which was the result of the southern Africa regional drought in that year.

"Coverage by these programs is substantial but it's not complete considering that there are 1,362 secondary schools and 2,543 primary schools," observed Mineduc's PS, who recognized that the programs have contributed greatly to the substantial achievements in the education sector over the last decade such as increasing enrollment, attendance, retention, and achievement.

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