November 9, 2017 By Dusuba Koroma & Elizabeth A. Kaine
Authorities in government-assisted primary schools in Freetown have expressed disappointment over the halt in the school feeding programme without any explanation from the authorities concerned.
The school feeding programme was introduced by the government, through Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) in collaboration with the Catholic Relief Services, to feed over 1.2 million primary school pupils across the country.
Launched in 2015 for government-assisted primary schools, the initiative was expected to increase enrollment by encouraging pupils to remain in school. It was meant to be a sustainable programme but since 2016 many schools have not been getting their required supplies from MEST.
Head Teacher of St. John Primary School, situated in central Freetown, Prince E.M. Clarkson, told Concord Times the school has not benefitted from the initiative since its inception.
He said the government recently added more schools to the programme, but could not tell whether his school is among.
Head Mistresses of St. Anthony’s Primary School for Girls and U.M.C Primary School, Rev. Mrs. Estella Mansaray and Rev. Gertrude Dunbor respectively, said their schools only benefited from the initiative for two terms during the 2015/2016 academic year, adding that they have not received any supply in the 2017/2018 academic year.
The school feeding programme was supposed to be a sustainable one, catering for less-privileged schools in a bid to help increase the number of admission into schools and improve on the retention of pupils.
According to Miss Yvonne Johnson, Head Teacher at the Regent Square Municipal Infant School, the suspension of the programme meant that most of their pupils who are from deprived homes might drop out of school or start skipping lessons as their parents could not afford to provide them lunch daily.
Mrs. Johnson also noted that although funds given to them by the government under the scheme was inadequate, they tried their best to prepare good meals to encourage pupils to attend regularly.
Meanwhile, deputy head teacher of the Methodist City Mission School at Bathurst Street, Madam Cordelia Ruby Campbell, maintained that the school feeding initiative has not been successful because of the paltry amount of money provided for each pupil.
However, Director of the National School Feeding Programme, Sylvester Meaux, told our reporters they have prepared documents and forwarded them to the government treasury and that they are only waiting for disbursement of funds.