Little food or no meal at all is one of the challenges pupils especially in rural schools grapple with, and this according to stakeholders in the education sector is partly responsible for the poor grades. Some parents do not pack food for their children or even afford a small fee set by some schools as contribution to feeding.
As such school heads have run out of options on how to adequately feed their pupils. “Some schools teach half day because children cannot cope with afternoon lessons on empty stomachs,” says Franco Twebaze, the head teacher Kabuyanda Central School.
Similarly, Edrine Tumwebaze, the head teacher Katerera Primary School in Masha Sub-county, says without a sustainable programme supported by parents, there is nothing much they can offer to give the children a bright future.
“As early as 11am some children are sleeping in class, weary and you know they are very hungry. You cannot force such a child to study,” says Tumwebaze.
It is against this background that Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC), a non-governmental organisation taking care of orphans and other vulnerable children in western region, started a school feeding programme in 2016 with the aim of fighting hunger and malnutrition in school but also improve on quality learning.
Boaz Buyinza, the FAOC executive director, says they started with sensitisation of district leaders, school management committees and school heads on the importance of feeding but adds that the dilemma was on sustainability.
“The parents were not willing or could not afford to pay as little as Shs5,000 schools had set as contribution towards breakfast and as an organisation we lacked funds to feed these children that is when we came out with the handwork intervention,” he said.
He adds that they looked at some of the items these pupils would make such as balls, mats, baskets, walking sticks, pots, and were convinced if they found market for these products, the pupils besides skills development would contribute to their own feeding. He said they sold this idea and says since then more than 20 schools have embraced it. FOAC has purchased handwork worth Shs4m from schools.
“After pupils have made handwork, we collect it and market it in exhibitions and trade shows, public functions and gatherings, shop outlets and then the proceeds are reimbursed to schools under school support scheme,” says Buyinza.
Buyinza says they have started the school feeding initiative with feeding pupils during break time on maize meal porridge mixed with milk adding that they chose milk because it is a complete meal.
Night Molly, the head teacher Kicwekano Primary School in Kabingo Sub-county, says since the programme started out of 210 pupils in her school, more than 100 get breakfast.
She says each pupil’s handwork is tagged on their name and after sale, the proceeds go to their feeding.
On average, Molly says, every month they collect between Shs150,000 and Shs200,000 from handwork.