Sunday Mail Reporter
All primary school learners will now benefit from the National Schools Feeding Programme on the back of improved grain and cereal output from summer cropping.
Initially, the programme only targeted 1, 5 million early childhood learners and Grades 1 and 2 pupils, but now includes Grades 3 to 7. The multi-million-dollar initiative aims to improve nutrition and avert school drop-outs occasioned by hunger.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora told The Sunday Mail, “We have expanded the National Schools Feeding Programme; so every child at primary education level is now being taken care of under the scheme. Every child will be on the scheme by January 2018. “Ongoing borehole drilling and setting up of drip irrigation schemes at every secondary school will ensure learning institutions will not outsource products used for the programme.”
Dr Dokora added, “Parents should work with school authorities on the programme to promote domestic purchases and boost productivity. ‘‘And parents, please make sure you pay fees for your children so that teachers will not have problems in running these institutions.
‘‘We have opened various ways of ensuring that you pay fees. “You cannot tell me that you cannot afford to send your children to school yet you have several goats roaming around. Make sure you sell them and pay fees. “The more we keep our children in class, the less we have problems such as child marriages.”
Government introduced the National Schools Feeding Programme in 2016 after the number of hunger-induced school drop-outs increased.
At the time, at least 4 500 Grade 7 pupils subsequently fell pregnant or married. The 2015/16 drought that hit parts of Masvingo, Manicaland and Matabeleland fuelled dire food shortage, prompting authorities to intervene.
Dr Dokora encouraged parents to partner school authorities to ensure the feeding programme’s success. A Cabinet committee comprising the ministries of Finance and Economic Development; Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare; and Primary and Secondary Education is leading the initiative.
In early 2017, Government signed an agreement with financiers to fund borehole drilling and irrigation schemes at various schools.
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