Many school children in Tororo District attend day-schools. The majority of these children do not have lunch and yet parents expect them to perform well. In many cases, children leave home very early without having breakfast and study with no hope of lunch daily from Monday to Friday.
The data obtained from the district reveals that 80 per cent of pupils in the district do not get any meal the whole day. Teachers in Tororo say classes that are conducted in the afternoons are less attended than the morning lessons. What effective learning or teaching can take place when the stomach is empty and rumbling due to hunger?
The district authorities and schools administration have for long struggled with this problem, but no way forward has been made. The government, through its policy of free education, has been put in a tight corner given the high number of pupils attending primary school, which it cannot afford to feed.
The Ministry of Education came up with school feeding guidelines where parents are required to take responsibility for feeding their children.
Tororo is home for cement production and the soil is fertile for maize and beans growing. These crops are used for feeding children in schools. Despite this, most of the pupils still go to school without eating, a factor that contributes to high school dropout in the district, which stands at 46 per cent.
In an attempt to implement the Ministry of Education feeding policy, districts and sub-counties as well as schools were supported to form committees in school management committees to discuss the proposals to have them fund the purchase of maize and beans for their children.
Parents were sensitised on the benefits of the school feeding programmes and encouraged to contribute Shs2,000 towards the purchase of beans and maize for their children to have mid-day meals. It is the parents’ role to mobilise funds for buying maize and beans and other things like firewood for preparing meals. Sadly, while some parents embraced the project, others did not.
At the beginning, it was a common practice in schools to see sections of pupils eat porridge while others, whose parents had not contributed, watched from a distance. Schools encouragement and peer pressure from the pupils eventually resulted in an increase in the number of parents contributing Shs2,000 for buying maize and beans at school. Today, parents in 429 public primary schools in Tororo are contributing funds to provide porridge for their children.
Tororo District has demonstrated that if parents are empowered to seek solutions to the challenges they face, they can address them.