By Kampala Post Reporter
The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Janet Museveni has launched the national School Feeding mobilization campaign for parents and leaders at all levels to ensure that all children get a meal while at school.
The First Lady launched the campaign during a talk show moderated by Betty Mujungu on Voice of Tooro in Fort Portal Municipality on Tuesday. She said, “I am here this evening to talk to you about the importance of good nutrition and feeding our children while at school because a hungry child cannot concentrate and ends up performing poorly.”
Mrs. Janet Museveni was accompanied to the Voice of Tooro Radio Studios by Kabarole Local Leaders who included the Woman MP Burahya Margaret Muhanga, LCV Chairman Richard Rwabuhinga, RDC Steven Asiimwe, DEO Patrick Rwakaikara and Dr. Cleophas Mugenyi the Commissioner for Teacher Education Standards from the Ministry of Education and Sports.
She said that after the Ministry of Education and Sports found out that many of the children stay at school without a meal, it declared a national campaign on nutrition and school feeding this year. She explained that in-school meals and proper nutrition promotes healthy children and good performance in class, while poor nutrition makes children fall sick, often missing classes and performing poorly.
She informed the listeners that research findings show that children in areas where parents feed them at school are healthy and perform well. “I urge those parents who live in towns and cannot pay for meals at school for their school going children to pack food for them and advise those who can pay for lunch for their children at school to also do so.”
“I wonder why people get ashamed of packing food for their children, even parents in developed countries pack food for their children,” she added.
She said she was happy to hear that Kabarole parents pack food for their school going children and others pay for lunch at school enabling at least 70% to have a meal while at school.
She pointed out that food, shelter and clothing are basic human needs which all parents must ensure to provide for their children. She said it is shameful for the parents to neglect their responsibility and think that it is Government to feed their children.
Mrs. Museveni criticized some men who spend a lot of money on alcohol rather than contributing to packing food for their children and meeting their school needs. She called on the communities and local leaders to fight this.
When she was asked whether it was right for schools to send children without packed food back home, the First Lady said teachers are sometimes forced to do this when the children stop concentrating in class and instead doze off because of hunger. She however clarified that President Museveni is against the sending away of children from school because of failure to pay money for food and he says the children whose parents cannot pay money even in towns should be allowed to bring packed food for their lunch.
Janet Museveni said that when she was MP for Ruhaama, she used to work with the LC1 Chairmen to identify those parents whose children were going without a meal at school and they were mobilized.
She called upon all parents, local leaders, religious leaders and the communities to get involved in this campaign and ensure that no child goes without a meal while at school. “I am now lighting the fire which will not go out if you local leaders keep fanning the flame,” she said.
Mrs. Janet Museveni also decried the current trend of parents letting their children leave home for school alone when it is still night, saying this is very dangerous and unnecessary since all schools are supposed to start business at 8am in the morning and close latest by 5pm.
Hon Margaret Muhanga, Woman MP Burahya urged the Kabarole parents to ensure proper nutrition for their children to avoid getting stunted.
She said, “Feeding a child is not a hard thing, you don’t need to go to the market or supermarket but feed them on our local foods like matooke, potatoes, pumpkins, beans and dodo plus fruits that we can grow in our backyards.”
Kabarole LCV Chairman said they will continue with mobilizing the parents so that even the remaining 30% of children in Kabarole also start having a meal when at school. He however pointed out that a hungry teacher cannot be effective and urged schools to give their teachers lunch.
RDC Steven Asiimwe said they are going to engage police to address the issue of parents who let their children walk to school alone when it is still dark.
Kabarole District Education Officer, Patrick Rwakaikara thanked Government for the World Bank supported Nutrition project to which the District is a beneficiary. He told the parents that when they see their children in the gardens, it is part of the school time table and they are being taught how to grow foods with micronutrients.
Dr. Cleophas Mugenyi the Commissioner Teacher Education Standards said the Education Ministry will also go around the schools to follow up on school feeding issues.