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As school feeding programme stalls…

Attendance dwindles

May 22, 2017 By Elizabeth A. Kaine

Cooking utensils previously used to prepare meal at Dr.SM Broderick Primary School in Freetown

A survey conducted by Concord Times in various government and government assisted primary schools across Freetown to ascertain the sustainability of the school feeding programme has revealed that attendance in schools has fallen dramatically as a result of the sudden halt of the scheme.

“Some pupils have stopped coming to school especially on the days allotted for the feeding programme. We are urging government to resume the programme as the children have been accustomed to it,” said Madam Alice Coker, Head teacher of Buxton Girl’s Primary School.

The school feeding programme was one of several sub programmes under the President’s Recovery Priorities (PRP), which sought to provide local meal for about 1.2 million primary school children twice a week-Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, the scheme has not been materialized since school re-opened two weeks back.

But the Director of National School Feeding Programme, Silvester Mehuex, told Concord Times in a telephone interview that, the programme would kick off this week and that they were busy rectifying some documentation with regards bank accounts of various schools, which, he said were faulty.

“We have presented all bank accounts to the Ministry of Finance and the school feeding would start come next week,” he said.

Head teacher of Buxton Girl’s Primary School, Madam Alice Coker, and expressed serious concern with regards the ‘indefinite’ suspension of the feeding programme.

She noted that over the past weeks, her school recorded low   attendance due the halt of the feeding programme.

She stated that school feeding can improve attendance and retention rates, and that it enables children to be more active and receptive to learning, thus reiterating call for its revival.

Madam Coker said she was finding it difficult to answer the many questions from pupils, who were curious to know about the fate of the school feeding programme.

“Most pupils are not staying with their parents, so they find it difficult to come to school with empty stomach. With the inception of this programme, the number of pupils in our schools has been growing, so halting it will discourage many from attending,” she said.

On her part, Madam Patricia J. Cooper, Head Teacher of the Christ Church Primary School said  since schools re-opened they have been waiting on government to confirm as to whether the feeding programme would continue, and that they had hoped for an increase in the funds provided to implement the project,  as the previous one was not enough to cater for all the pupils.

“We will wait on government for further information, as you know, we are not doing it on our own,” she said.

However, Madam Agnes M. Jalloh, Head Teacher of Dr. S. M. Broderick Municipal School, applauded government for the initiative, but noted that they were hoping the programme would continue.

She said though the funds were not enough but would help to keep children in schools, adding that government was yet to tell them anything with regards the continuity of the programme.

“We are really confused as to what is going on, because government has not update us on the progress of the programme. Hungry children can’t learn. By providing them with a midday meal, we can keep them in school and they are more likely to be alert and focused on learning. Pupils were accustomed to truancy but that was subsided since the inception of the feeding programme,”she noted.

Fatmata B. Jalloh, a class six pupil from the Buxton Memorial Primary School, explained that the food was major influence on her frequently attending school on a daily basis, but expressed frustration due to the sudden halt.

She said on Tuesday morning after preparing for school, she took along plate and spoon for the meal, but to her greatest surprise, “there was nothing to eat that afternoon after standing in a queue for long.”

“It was a shock to all of us that there was no food after we had hoped for it on the Tuesday when school re-opened,” she said.

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