By Kampala Post Reporter
LIRA. The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Janet Museveni has stressed that packing food for school-going children is not shameful at all and encouraged parents in the Lango Sub-region of Northern Uganda not to have any fear in doing so as to ensure that their children have a midday meal while at school.
The First Lady, who is on a countrywide School-Feeding and Nutrition Campaign, was hosted for a talk show on Unity FM in Lira Municipality late last week, which she used to remind and mobilize the parents about their cardinal role to feed their children.
While appreciating the efforts of the Lira District Local Government in coming up with a local policy for parents to make a cash contribution towards lunch at School, Janet Museveni reiterated that it is more sustainable to pack a meal for one’s child than raising cash each term to pay to the School. She highlighted that packing a School-meal for the children promotes parental responsibility for the choice to select what one's child gets to eat.
She emphasized that School-feeding Committees which are supposed to be established in every School; in accordance with the Ministry’s Guidelines, should not only promote cash-contributions towards lunch at School but also sensitize the parents in the School not to shy away from the traditional and tested practice of packing food from home.
She further guided that the School-feeding campaign she has ignited is not only about providing any food but food which is nutritious. She challenged the local leaders at all levels in the District to take it up as a personal responsibility to mobilize and sensitize parents to not only feed their children but to feed them nutritiously at that.
Sharing from her personal experience while still a School-going child, the First Lady narrated that for children whose homes are far from the School, packing a meal is the most affordable option especially for parents that may not be having cash-at-hand to pay for meals at School. She also pointed out that if parents forsake packing food for their children, they can’t guarantee that they have nutritious food since other people may only provide one type of food like cassava or posho or only porridge.
“This campaign is not only about school feeding but we are stretching out to educate parents about growing nutritious foods in their backyards and ensuring nutritious feeding for their children,” she said.
She also clarified that the Ministry of Education and Sports has not come up with a prescription of the specific foods that parents should pack for their children. She decried the perception that nutritious feeding is about feeding on foods that are either expensive or only found in supermarkets. She said that most households are endowed with environments that are able to grow highly nutritious foods.
On the concern that the Ministry of Education and Sports tends to focus on implementation of government policy and guidelines in only Public Schools, she clarified that her Ministry has a responsibility to both public and private Schools. She emphasized that the benefits of nutritious School-feeding cut across any learner irrespective of which School they attend. “I am concerned about all Ugandan children’s education,” she emphasized.
About the conflicting messages from political leaders on what is free in UPE, the First Lady explained that under the UPE Policy, the children don’t have to pay school fees and it is the Government’s responsibility to build the schools’ infrastructure, pay teachers and provide education materials, while parents on the other hand have to feed their children, provide uniforms and health care.
The Commissioner for Secondary Schools in the Ministry’s Directorate of Education Standards, Kule Baritazale who was together with the First Lady in the Unity FM Studios, emphasized that in case the parents agree to contribute something to the school for their children’s lunch, the Food Committee at the school should decide on the appropriate measure that the parents can contribute. He added that in the case of any charge or cash contributions at the school, the budgets have to be scrutinized and approved by either the Permanent Secretary, the Chief Administrative Officer or the Town Clerk.
Others in the Studios together with the First Lady were Lira District Chairperson Alex Oremo, the Chief Administrative Officer Mark Tivu and the District Education Officer Jasper Abura.