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Ahead of next month’s new school year, Director of the School Feeding Programme, Helen Robertson, has said that contingency plans are being put in place to cater for the number of students that will be enrolled.
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ today (August 14), Miss Robertson said the contingency plans are necessary, as it is not known ahead of the start of the school year, how many students would be enrolled.
“We recognise that the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), is an ongoing enrollment, so when we do our budgets in November at the Ministry, we might have been told 100,000 students; three months later it might be 120,000 and by the time the school year starts, it might be 160,000,” she pointed out.
“We try to do some contingency planning as best as we can, but you recognise we will never know how many students will be enrolled, so we have to work within our parameters to see how best we can cater for their need,” Miss Robertson added.
She explained that the Ministry was giving each student something substantial to sustain him or her at school, which is a balanced meal.
“We are looking at one-third of a child’s calorie requirement for the day, recognising that before the child gets to school, there should be breakfast and when the child gets home, there should be dinner,” she said.
“If you are able to offer one balanced meal or snack in the course of a day, then for many children that is really the only meal that they have all day,”Miss Robertson said.
She pointed out that many schools, through their own initiative, have started breakfast programmes, whether through private sector donations or good public/private partnerships.
The Director said that with the Ministry of Agriculture’s push for cassava to be incorporated into the school feeding programme, “we are in discussions with that Ministry and other Ministries, to see how that might be done, but of course, that will be dependent on costing, consistency of supply and how well we will be able to work with the products we have.”
In terms of challenges facing the programme, Miss Robertson said there are several, including limited resources. “Our canteens, which sometimes are in a state of disrepair, you will find that we have to refurbish a canteen and soon after, it might be vandalised; people steal the food or the pots, just like they go to schools and steal computers; it’s a problem,” she said.