Tuesday, 27 September 2016 21:00

ZIMBABWE: Schools Feeding Programme a Step in the Right Direction

28 September 2016 - The South African Basic Education minister, Angie Motshekga was in the country recently for a series of meetings with her Zimbabwean counterpart, Dr Lazarus Dokora to see how the two countries may collaborate going forward. In the press conference held just after their engagement, she showered praises on the local education system and expressed keenness to adopt some of Zimbabwean methods of operation.

One of the variables discussed between the Ministers was the school feeding programme. Minister Motshekga urged Zimbabwe to take up this idea which has reaped dividends for our South African neighbours.

"The schools feeding programme has been in South Africa since the days of Nelson Mandela in 1995. Like here in Zimbabwe we started small but we have grown over the years," Motshekga said.

She added that the idea in her home country had challenges at first as it was administered jointly with the Health Ministry in South Africa.

"I urge Zimbabwe to explore this idea with all it has because it has proven to be a good gamble in South Africa. It has helped South African farmers find a market. It has helped create jobs in our country.

"If Zimbabwe follows this through, they may create jobs for their people."

She says they have scientific evidence that the programme has assisted in replenishing the health of South African pupils.

"I was happy to learn that Zimbabwe is starting the programme, which is now part of our mainstream budget."

The South African schools feeding programme caters for 9 million students a day.

One of the key challenges cited by the South African Minister is that of steering the diet in line with their students' preference. Zimbabwean Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora spoke highly of the initiative which commenced in full in the current school term.

He said Treasury was responding to the provisions for this idea in the forthcoming budgets.

"There is a school feeding committee that runs from the national scope down to district level who are ensuring that the programme runs smoothly," Minister Dokora said.

The Minister added that catering for the students' diet should be everyone's priority as it is a strategic investment.

"School feeding is an essential tool for the development and growth of children.

"School feeding has many demonstrable advantages, but it has its greatest impact among learners who receive sufficient nutrition to allow them to concentrate on school tasks while developing into healthy adults," said Minister Dokora.

The South African Basic Education minister, Angie Motshekga was in the country recently for a series of meetings with her Zimbabwean counterpart, Dr Lazarus Dokora to see how the two countries may collaborate going forward. In the press conference held just after their engagement, she showered praises on the local education system and expressed keenness to adopt some of Zimbabwean methods of operation.

One of the variables discussed between the Ministers was the school feeding programme. Minister Motshekga urged Zimbabwe to take up this idea which has reaped dividends for our South African neighbours.

"The schools feeding programme has been in South Africa since the days of Nelson Mandela in 1995. Like here in Zimbabwe we started small but we have grown over the years," Motshekga said.

She added that the idea in her home country had challenges at first as it was administered jointly with the Health Ministry in South Africa.

"I urge Zimbabwe to explore this idea with all it has because it has proven to be a good gamble in South Africa. It has helped South African farmers find a market. It has helped create jobs in our country.

"If Zimbabwe follows this through, they may create jobs for their people."

She says they have scientific evidence that the programme has assisted in replenishing the health of South African pupils.

"I was happy to learn that Zimbabwe is starting the programme, which is now part of our mainstream budget."

The South African schools feeding programme caters for 9 million students a day.

One of the key challenges cited by the South African Minister is that of steering the diet in line with their students' preference. Zimbabwean Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora spoke highly of the initiative which commenced in full in the current school term.

He said Treasury was responding to the provisions for this idea in the forthcoming budgets.

"There is a school feeding committee that runs from the national scope down to district level who are ensuring that the programme runs smoothly," Minister Dokora said

The Minister added that catering for the students' diet should be everyone's priority as it is a strategic investment.

"School feeding is an essential tool for the development and growth of children.

"School feeding has many demonstrable advantages, but it has its greatest impact among learners who receive sufficient nutrition to allow them to concentrate on school tasks while developing into healthy adults," said Minister Dokora

One of the variables discussed between the Ministers was the school feeding programme. Minister Motshekga urged Zimbabwe to take up this idea which has reaped dividends for our South African neighbours.

"The schools feeding programme has been in South Africa since the days of Nelson Mandela in 1995. Like here in Zimbabwe we started small but we have grown over the years," Motshekga said.

She added that the idea in her home country had challenges at first as it was administered jointly with the Health Ministry in South Africa.

"I urge Zimbabwe to explore this idea with all it has because it has proven to be a good gamble in South Africa. It has helped South African farmers find a market. It has helped create jobs in our country.

"If Zimbabwe follows this through, they may create jobs for their people."

She says they have scientific evidence that the programme has assisted in replenishing the health of South African pupils.

"I was happy to learn that Zimbabwe is starting the programme, which is now part of our mainstream budget."

The South African schools feeding programme caters for 9 million students a day.

One of the key challenges cited by the South African Minister is that of steering the diet in line with their students' preference. Zimbabwean Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora spoke highly of the initiative which commenced in full in the current school term.

He said Treasury was responding to the provisions for this idea in the forthcoming budgets.

"There is a school feeding committee that runs from the national scope down to district level who are ensuring that the programme runs smoothly," Minister Dokora said.

The Minister added that catering for the students' diet should be everyone's priority as it is a strategic investment.

"School feeding is an essential tool for the development and growth of children.

"School feeding has many demonstrable advantages, but it has its greatest impact among learners who receive sufficient nutrition to allow them to concentrate on school tasks while developing into healthy adults," said Minister Dokora.

In the wake of the El Nino-induced drought, Minister Dokora said that the students are well catered for through at least one wet meal a day during the school breaks.

This is a welcome prospect amid figures from the ZimVAC 2016 Rural Livelihoods assessment which show that in the months to come approximately 4.1 million people will be food insecure.

While it is difficult to ascertain among the 4.1 million how many of the affected are of school going age, it is apparent that a large chunk of the said population are primary school pupils, the most delicate members of our demographic setup.

Students at Sachilaba Primary and other schools in rural Binga are said to be surviving on one meal a day.

A teacher based in the area said the students required urgent help to improve diet.

"The student situation here is terrible. Students usually have one meal in the evening, during the day they rely on wild fruits."

This affects their attention span in class as well as academic energy expected of a child in school.

For the schools feeding programme to bear fruit, communities need to take an active role than waiting for institutions to run the process.

The schools feeding programme started last term but some schools did not have proper infrastructure.

At Masimbe Primary school in Chibuwe, Chipinge, the school feeding programme began last term for ECD to Grade Two learners. The Government provides the maize grain which the school collects from GMB and parents have agreed to pay $1 per month for the relish.

Parents with children at the school said that this arrangement worked for them because they know that their child will get a full meal.

"Children bring their own plates and a dollar so that relish can be bought for the month. They have sadza with beans or green vegetables, whatever can be bought from the community.

"Some of the parents have organised themselves into teams and have volunteered to cook for the children and they are fed everyday from 11am," said Mr Levison Nengwa

Communities need to take stewardship of the programme to ensure that children are fed as they partake in their studies.

The Ministry seeks to promote traditional foods renowned for their nutritious value among children of school going age. This can be seen by the recommended menu which includes sorghum, millet, rapoko and millet.

Parents welcome the idea of intervention to the welfare of students at school.

Nyarai Dhliwayo whose child is in seventh grade at a local school welcomed the idea saying it has benefits for children who may be underprivileged.

"In this economy where some are struggling to make ends meet some children may find themselves going to school without packed lunch. This can potentially harm a child's pride and attention in class", Dhliwayo said.

She says the differences in the children's backgrounds will not be highly visible if a homogeneous meal is served to them.

"Sometimes sending a child to school can be a challenge when they are demanding a certain types of food because other students brought it.

"The challenge is when the child is too young and is not yet of an age where one would understand that things are not good."

James Muzondo is another parent who sees the schools feeding programme as a positive addition to the policy roster in our education sector.

"The school feeding programme is a noble idea because it ensures that when students are at school they are not disturbed by an absence of food. It is known that even adults cannot focus without eating."

He says the Ministry should be lauded for coming up with an idea which has the tendency to raise morality in the learning space.

"When students are at school they are among their peers and other like-minded students as such it is difficult for them to relate to others when the food they have is not of the same type. In some instances, some will not have the food in the first instance."

He added that parents should take an active role in ensuring that this programme goes on smoothly.

Abel Zimunya, a nutritionist with the Musimboti Traditional Science and Technology Institute, urged the schools and government to use the programme as a platform to promote traditional foods among pupils.

"In the modernised world, people are rushing for fast foods and refined foods. In practice most households have shunned traditional foods, students who come from those families will benefit from the nutritional diet projected in the schools feeding programme," Zimunya said.

He added that implementing small grains and other foods which are deemed traditional should help in raising a healthy nation.

"Foods like millet which were placed on the schedule were previously mixed with medicines, showing their value to human health. By giving them as part of their dietary intake, we are averting multiple diseases as they grow up," added Zimunya.

The idea was also praised for being in sync with the prevailing policies in the land. "ZimAsset clearly states the promotion of indigenous knowledge systems, and the introduction of a feeding programme for children shows that the Ministry is taking the prevailing policies and strategies into account."

Zimunya bemoaned the stance by local academics who seem to be taking a back seat in terms of promoting the consumption of traditional foods in families.

Countries like Brazil have employed the same model and 30 percent of their agricultural market comes from schools taking part in their own version of the schools feeding programme.

By Leroy Dzenga

The Herald

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