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No more hunger for UPE pupils

By Vision Reporter

Added 24th July 2012 02:44 PM

At 1:00pm, the bell rings. It is lunch time at Banda Primary School near Kampala. Children squeeze into the cafeteria ready to be served the day’s meal: posho, beans and drinking water.

No more hunger for UPE pupils

At 1:00pm, the bell rings. It is lunch time at Banda Primary School near Kampala. Children squeeze into the cafeteria ready to be served the day’s meal: posho, beans and drinking water.

At 1:00pm, the bell rings. It is lunch time at Banda Primary School near Kampala. Children squeeze into the cafeteria ready to be served the day’s meal: posho, beans and drinking water.

But Bridget, a 10-year-old does not bother to line up. She has not paid the sh15,000 school lunch fee because her single mother cannot afford it. She cannot even afford to pack for her lunch. So what does she eat?

“Sometimes my friends are kind, they share with me. Most times, the teacher on duty also feels pity and asks me to go to the cafeteria,” she says.

When it is not her lucky day, she will go to class hungry and sleep on the desk during lessons. “I wish my mother could afford the money for school lunch.”

In 2003, President Museveni threatened to arrest any head teacher who charged lunch money, urging parents to pack meals for their children. However, many parents have been unable to pack food for their children. As a result, some schools decided to quietly ask parents to pay for lunch.

Last week, however, the education minister, Jessica Alupo, said cabinet had revised its policy on school feeding in UPE schools.

She said the school management committees will be allowed to collect and manage money for lunch as long as the parents accept to pay it.

Alupo explained that where parents agree to contribute food such as beans or posho, management of these will be done by the committees.

“We have asked the headteachers to keep away from handling any items to do with feeding of children,” she said.

Uptown schools happy
A Sunday Vision mini survey shows that teachers are happy with Alupo’s announcement. The policy change has enabled them to do what they have been doing undercover.

At Banda Primary School, Ibrahim Haswa, the deputy head teacher says each child pays sh15,000 and it is working well.

He argues that contributing lunch fees saves one on a rainy day. “Sometimes, you might have an emergency, but knowing your child’s lunch is covered is a relief,” says Haswa.

He adds that those who are able to pack their children’s lunch are allowed to do so.

Haswa, however, worries that some parents deliberately seem to want to feed off others.

At Buganda Road Primary School, the management has, since 1997 set a lunch fee of sh10, 400 for the daily menu of posho, beans, cabbages and tomatoes. Those in P1 to P2, pay an additional sh5, 000 to cater for their break tea because they are very young.

The school has over 2,000 children and feeding has never been a problem. Arnold Ntungwa, the deputy head teacher says: “Normally, you find only one or two pupils in a class of over 50 who have not paid. But those are exceptional cases. Either the child has no parents or his family is going through a difficult time. But in such a case, we let the child have meals. That’s the charity we give them.”

At Mengo Primary school, the children have to pay sh10,000 per term and those who have paid are given a meal card. The school which has over 1,000 children even gets extra money to cater for break porridge for the younger children in P1 and P2, according to Lillian Nansubuga, the head teacher.

Rural schools upbeat
Attempts to ask parents to contribute lunch fees in rural areas have been unsuccessful.

“Many children come empty handed because their illiterate parents think that with UPE, everything is free,” says Jane Kibuuka, the headteacher of Kukanga Primary School in Mubende. The school asked parents to pay about sh7,000 per pupil for school lunch, but only a few brought the money.

“There is a term when only 12 of the 163 students paid for lunch. Most parents are subsistence farmers with little to no ability to generate cash — even sh5,000 per term for school lunch is too much. It’s hard to learn when you are hungry.” A teacher who prefers anonymity at Nyamiko Primary School in Bushenyi district also says: “We have met resistance with lunch fees. Parents argue that they cultivate their own food and can afford to cook food and pack for their children.”

This teacher also worries that where parents agree to contribute their food stuff, the committees might steal it for their families.

“If funds for scholastic materials are disappearing, then what about the food? How are you going to ensure that the contribution is uniform? Are you going to ask each pupil to bring a kilo of beans?”

Way forward
Kibuuka says the school was helped by a charity US organisation, One School at a Time, which funded the items needed to expand the farm programme so that more food is produced. And now, there is food and fruits for every child.

In a 2010 memo to cabinet, the education ministry stated that hunger is one of the main reasons children perform poorly in UPE schools.

It explained that hungry children have poor concentration, poor mental abilities, absenteeism, bad behaviour, poor health and are school drop-outs.

The Education Act allows schools to charge parents a limited amount of money for feeding children, provided it is agreed upon by the school management committee in consultation with the district council.

It, however, maintains that such payment be voluntary. The law also states that pupils must not be dismissed from school if their parents do not pay lunch fees.

Other options proposed by the ministry for feeding school children include children returning home for lunch then going back to school. This is practical for children whose homes are near the school.

Using school gardens to provide food was also proposed such that the children can cultivate their own food during co-curricular activities.

The document further proposed that parents can cultivate communal land and supply schools with food. Another option is for parents to give their children packed lunch, which experts say has failed miserable.

Buganda Road’s Ntugwa says there is no particular formula that works for every school. “Let  Parliament debate. Let parents also take a decision.”

Haswa also calls for sensitisation of parents to appreciate the value of feeding children.No more hunger for UPE pupils

At 1:00pm, the bell rings. It is lunch time at Banda Primary School near Kampala. Children squeeze into the cafeteria ready to be served the day’s meal: posho, beans and drinking water. But Bridget, a 10-year-old does not bother to line up. She has not paid the sh15,000 school lunch fee because her single mother cannot afford it. She cannot even afford to pack for her lunch. So what does she eat?

“Sometimes my friends are kind, they share with me. Most times, the teacher on duty also feels pity and asks me to go to the cafeteria,” she says.

When it is not her lucky day, she will go to class hungry and sleep on the desk during lessons. “I wish my mother could afford the money for school lunch.”

In 2003, President Museveni threatened to arrest any head teacher who charged lunch money, urging parents to pack meals for their children. However, many parents have been unable to pack food for their children. As a result, some schools decided to quietly ask parents to pay for lunch.

Last week, however, the education minister, Jessica Alupo, said cabinet had revised its policy on school feeding in UPE schools.

She said the school management committees will be allowed to collect and manage money for lunch as long as the parents accept to pay it.

Alupo explained that where parents agree to contribute food such as beans or posho, management of these will be done by the committees.

“We have asked the headteachers to keep away from handling any items to do with feeding of children,” she said.

Uptown schools happy
A Sunday Vision mini survey shows that teachers are happy with Alupo’s announcement. The policy change has enabled them to do what they have been doing undercover.

At Banda Primary School, Ibrahim Haswa, the deputy head teacher says each child pays sh15,000 and it is working well.

He argues that contributing lunch fees saves one on a rainy day. “Sometimes, you might have an emergency, but knowing your child’s lunch is covered is a relief,” says Haswa.

He adds that those who are able to pack their children’s lunch are allowed to do so.

Haswa, however, worries that some parents deliberately seem to want to feed off others.

At Buganda Road Primary School, the management has, since 1997 set a lunch fee of sh10, 400 for the daily menu of posho, beans, cabbages and tomatoes. Those in P1 to P2, pay an additional sh5, 000 to cater for their break tea because they are very young.

The school has over 2,000 children and feeding has never been a problem. Arnold Ntungwa, the deputy head teacher says: “Normally, you find only one or two pupils in a class of over 50 who have not paid. But those are exceptional cases. Either the child has no parents or his family is going through a difficult time. But in such a case, we let the child have meals. That’s the charity we give them.”

At Mengo Primary school, the children have to pay sh10,000 per term and those who have paid are given a meal card. The school which has over 1,000 children even gets extra money to cater for break porridge for the younger children in P1 and P2, according to Lillian Nansubuga, the head teacher.

Rural schools upbeat
Attempts to ask parents to contribute lunch fees in rural areas have been unsuccessful.

“Many children come empty handed because their illiterate parents think that with UPE, everything is free,” says Jane Kibuuka, the headteacher of Kukanga Primary School in Mubende. The school asked parents to pay about sh7,000 per pupil for school lunch, but only a few brought the money.

“There is a term when only 12 of the 163 students paid for lunch. Most parents are subsistence farmers with little to no ability to generate cash — even sh5,000 per term for school lunch is too much. It’s hard to learn when you are hungry.” A teacher who prefers anonymity at Nyamiko Primary School in Bushenyi district also says: “We have met resistance with lunch fees. Parents argue that they cultivate their own food and can afford to cook food and pack for their children.”

This teacher also worries that where parents agree to contribute their food stuff, the committees might steal it for their families.

“If funds for scholastic materials are disappearing, then what about the food? How are you going to ensure that the contribution is uniform? Are you going to ask each pupil to bring a kilo of beans?”

Way forward
Kibuuka says the school was helped by a charity US organisation, One School at a Time, which funded the items needed to expand the farm programme so that more food is produced. And now, there is food and fruits for every child.

In a 2010 memo to cabinet, the education ministry stated that hunger is one of the main reasons children perform poorly in UPE schools.

It explained that hungry children have poor concentration, poor mental abilities, absenteeism, bad behaviour, poor health and are school drop-outs.

The Education Act allows schools to charge parents a limited amount of money for feeding children, provided it is agreed upon by the school management committee in consultation with the district council.

It, however, maintains that such payment be voluntary. The law also states that pupils must not be dismissed from school if their parents do not pay lunch fees.

Other options proposed by the ministry for feeding school children include children returning home for lunch then going back to school. This is practical for children whose homes are near the school.

Using school gardens to provide food was also proposed such that the children can cultivate their own food during co-curricular activities.

The document further proposed that parents can cultivate communal land and supply schools with food. Another option is for parents to give their children packed lunch, which experts say has failed miserable.

Buganda Road’s Ntugwa says there is no particular formula that works for every school. “Let  Parliament debate. Let parents also take a decision.”

Haswa also calls for sensitisation of parents to appreciate the value of feeding children.

 

No more hunger for UPE pupils

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