More pupils to study hungry - Report

Pupils of St Mary’s  Kiryowa Primary School in Buikwe District are served  porridge during break time on April 11, 2019. PHOTO /DENIS EDEMA

What you need to know:

  • Many parents’ ability to provide food for their primary going school children has been frustrated due to the pandemic. 

The government should be prepared to support or even feed pupils, majority of whom will be going hungry when schools are reopened, a new research has disclosed. 

A study titled; Prospecting for School Feeding and Nutrition under Universal Primary Education (UPE) in Uganda states that many households in rural areas, whose children account for about 80 per cent of the estimated 7.9 million learners in primary education, have failed to support the feeding of their children at school despite the Education Act handing the responsibility to parents/guardians.

The Uganda Debt Network (UDN) report also indicates that even with more than 20 years of UPE implementation, only up to approximately 33 percent of children receive a meal at school, leaving out 67 percent.

The report adds that only 41 percent of UPE children receive a meal while at school in urban and peri-urban areas compared to 32 percent in rural areas. 

And with Covid-19 pandemic situation, the report reveals that the ability of many parents/guardians to provide food for their primary going-school children has taken a toll on them. 

Although guidelines on school feeding and nutrition intervention programme task the parents/guardians to contribute beans, maize and other foodstuffs in cash or kind to feed their children at school, teachers, support staff and orphans, they have largely remained on paper , the report states. 

“In line with the above, the Ministry of Education and Sports and partners such as Uganda Debt Network recognise that feeding at school is an essential and integral component of a child-friendly school environment, cognitive brain development and excellence,” the report reads in part. 

“On the contrary, not feeding a child at school is a violation of children’s rights under the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of the Child and other international protocols and conventions to which Uganda is signatory,”  it adds.  

According to USAID, more than 30 percent of the country’s total population faces some level of chronic food insecurity, contributing partly to some families, especially in rural areas continued failure to provide the basic family needs.

Hungry at school
A 2014 Uganda Bureau of Statistics report acknowledges that up to 66 percent of learners in primary schools study on empty stomachs. 

UPE enrolment has increased from 3.1 million in 1997 to 10.7 million pupils as of 2019. Government has also implemented the Universal Secondary Education since 2007 to absorb those transitioning from primary to secondary level. 

The report also identified limited and/ or lack of sustainable school feeding and nutrition of pupils, teachers and school workers in some schools as one of the major factors affecting education.

Another research done by UDN and National Children’s Authority in Acholi and Karamoja sub-regions recently, shows that school gardening can be a solution to hunger problem most pupils suffer. All that is needed, according to the survey, is a one-off approximately two financial years modest financing to the schools, for farm implements such hoes, machetes, pick-axes and others.

In 2013, government designed the school feeding and nutrition guidelines to improve child health, nutrition and educational performance and in April 2018, the Minister of Education, Ms Janet  Museveni, launched the national school feeding mobilisation campaign for parents and leaders at all levels to ensure all children get a meal while at school.