Windhoek — The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has come up with the draft Public Private Partnership Strategy for School Feeding intended to streamline and create a framework within which the ministry will engage with the private sector on school feeding matters at national, regional, circuit and school level.
The Namibian School Feeding Programme, funded and managed by the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, provides a nutritious fortified mid-morning maize meal to over 330,000 learners in 1,400 schools in all 14 regions of Namibia. For some learners, this is their main meal of the day.
Education Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has said school feeding is a very important social safety net programme for Namibia and one of the ministry's key programmes to address access to education and learning. It also contributes to national goals and the UN's sustainable development goals, in particular, SDG 4 on inclusive and quality education, as well as SDG 7, that speaks of partnerships for sustainable development.
"I always say... school feeding is close to my heart, because I have experienced and witnessed its benefits first-hand while working at the regional level," the minister, who was once a teacher, noted. She said school feeding has a significant impact on access to education and retention of learners, attendance and in the reduction of school dropout rates among school-age children.
She added that school meals also reduce short-term hunger and serve as a means to meet the nutritional requirements of children. Further, Hanse-Himarwa explained that the meals also improve learning, cognitive capacity, concentration in class and ultimately contribute to better educational performance.
However, she said there were challenges with the feeding programme in Namibia. These include limited or inadequate infrastructure, such as kitchens, storage facilities and eating shelters, cooking and eating utensils; poor sanitation facilities, lack of water in some schools and a lack of diversity in the food eaten by learners.
She said the ministry has taken steps to address these problems, for instance, a Home-Grown School Feeding Programme is being designed to enable schools to purchase locally produced food from smallholder farmers and traders.
She said the private sector is also being approached to complement school feeding programmes and accountability is being enhanced through rigorous monitoring systems.
"I am reliably informed that the private sector is already providing different forms of support to schools - including for instance donations of fish, meat bones, beef, monthly cash vouchers, monthly cash contributions, construction of kitchens and stores. I wish to appreciate this gesture - this is a true reflection of partnership," she commended.
However, she believes there is a need to take advantage of the gesture and move the partnership between school feeding and the private sector a notch higher by bringing some structure into the partnership, for the sake of longevity and sustainability.
As such, she said, widespread consultations were undertaken by the Ministry of Education, the World Food Programme and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation at national and sub-national level to solicit views from diverse stakeholders, including the private sector, regional directorates and schools on how best to improve the relationship with the private sector. She said partnerships were a necessity as they enable people to complement their resources, strengths and expertise to serve the public more efficiently and effectively. In many countries, she noted, partnerships between the public and private sectors have become common strategies for responding to national priorities, such as poverty alleviation and are a critical tool in the battle against hunger.
In developing countries, where more than 66 million school children go to school hungry every day, ending child hunger demands new ways of thinking, new actors and a new approach to problem solving, she said.
The Namibian government, through its Public Private Sector Policy and Public Private Sector Act of 2017, has created a broad framework that defines and encourages the engagement of the public and private sectors in order to improve service delivery and ensure better value for money through greater innovation.