Maputo — Mozambican Education Minister Conceita Sortane declared in Maputo on Monday that she regards the provision of school meals as a national challenge.
Speaking at the start of a two day meeting drawing up a balance of the National School Meals Programme (PRONAE), Sortane said there must be a correspondence between the expansion of the programme, and the level of investment in it.
Up until 2017, PRONAE was a pilot project covering only 12 schools in three provinces. But this year it has expanded to a further 58 schools in seven provinces . These are all three northern provinces (Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado), three central provinces (Tete, Manica and Zambezia), and only one of the four southern provinces (Gaza).
There are other food programmes in schools, and, taken together, they benefit 282,422 pupils in 832 schools.
Sortane said that the challenges now facing PRONAE include purchasing food locally, designing a monitoring and assessment system, ensuring medium and long term domestic financing, and approving a profile for PRONAE managers.
She called on the multi-sector committee that runs PRONAE to be more proactive and ensure implementation of such key measures as growing crops in school farms or gardens, and cooking the food on school premises.
She accepted that, school production of food, while it has educational aspects, will not be enough to cover all the nutritional needs of pupils. Households must also be encouraged to produce food for schoolchildren.
It is imperative to prioritise the acquisition of national products from peasant agriculture, said Sortane, through a system of purchasing perishable and some non-perishable food stuffs from local producers, in coordination with the Ministries of Agriculture and of Industry and Trade.
According to United Nations figures, 24 million children in Africa go to school hungry every day.
We recognise that the persistence of hunger, malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency can have lasting an irreversible impacts on the health and productivity of individuals, said Sortane. In Mozambique, school snacks are an adequate way of channelling vital nutrients to poor children, and motivate parents to send their children to school.
PRONAE currently count on partners such as the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) , Russia and Brazil.