Sunday 5 May 2024


CLOSE to three million children in public schools will be receiving at least one hot meal a day during learning hours this term under the Government’s schools feeding programme meant to insulate learners from the effects of the El Niño-induced drought while promoting high nutrition levels among them.

The programme will take off on Tuesday when schools open for the second term.

Under the initiative, which will cover schools in both rural and urban areas, the Government will provide meals to each learner from Early Childhood Development (ECD) class through to secondary school level daily.

There are roughly 10 000 public schools in Zimbabwe, with an estimated enrolment of three million.

Boarding schools account for 25 000 of the total enrolment.

Overall, the feeding programme seeks to curb school drop-outs and absenteeism as a result of difficulties occasioned by the drought.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, chief director for learner welfare and psychological services in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Ms Kwadzanai Nyanungo said all schoolchildren will be entitled to at least one meal per day.

Faced with the El Niño phenomenon and its impact on food and nutrition security, the Government is mobilising resources to sustain the home-grown school feeding programme to ensure that learners attending day school receive at least one hot and balanced meal per day without exception,” she said.

“Boarding schools already provide meals as part of their package, so they are not included here.

“The programme covers both rural and urban schools.

“The budget (for the programme) has been an annual thing; however, this year, definitely there is a need for supplementary spending to meet the gap created by the El Niño phenomenon.”

The programme, Ms Nyanungo said, will require the participation of various stakeholders, including local authorities, community leaders, parents, teachers and traditional leaders.

“In the past, the Government had been providing maize with no relish.

“The (Education) Secretary’s Circular No.5 of 2019 points out that, while the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is responsible for school feeding, the success of the home-grown approach requires mutually beneficial linkages with other ministries and stakeholders,” she said.

“The home-grown feeding programme requires the active participation of ministries responsible for agriculture, health, social welfare, women affairs, youth and finance.

“It operates in such a way that the demand for agricultural produce is created through the design of nutritious school meals that offer a balanced diet to all learners on every day of the school calendar.”

Apart from its benefits for children’s nutrition, the programme also serves as an attraction for learners to religiously attend school.

When dropouts are curbed, Ms Nyanungo added, child marriages, child prostitution, and drug and substance abuse, among other social vices, will be reduced.

Director of communications and advocacy in the Ministry of Primary and Education Mr Taungana Ndoro said health protocols have been put in place to ensure the food is fit for consumption.

“During a drought period or any potential outbreak of diseases like cholera, additional measures are taken to ensure the safety of children participating in the school feeding programme,” he said.

“These measures include regular monitoring of food safety and hygiene practices, proper storage and handling of food, promoting handwashing and sanitation practices, and providing health education on preventive measures.” Sunday Mail


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