By Desta Gebrehiwot
Ethiopia is to implement national school feeding programme at all schools as part of the newly developed National School Health Nutrition Strategy, The Ethiopian Herald learnt at the opening ceremony a two-day consultative workshop on 'Systematic Approach for Better Education' here yesterday.
The national school feeding programme is different from the previous similar scheme. The previous school feeding programme has been reaching selected schools where students are vulnerable to malnutrition and food shortage. But, the new national school feeding programme will be applicable to all schools either private or public in towns or rural areas. The programme will be integrated to national education system.
The feeding scheme will primarily be applied in primary schools as a pilot project and will consequently be cascaded to other levels. The consultative workshop will help identify capacity gaps and design strategies for school feeding programme .
The programme is apart of the ongoing global efforts to achieve education for all and school safety net programme.
The government has developed the programme to ensure transition from donor funded programme to national ownership and expand the current coverage to more schools, said Eshetu Assefaw, Action Planning Resource Mobilization Director with the Ministry of Education.
According to the strategy, the feeding programme will be implemented by national capacity from financing up to supplying food. In addition to school feeding , the strategy also targets on the provision of healthy conducive and friendly school environment. "The feeding scheme will help create healthier and efficient generation and ensure quality and better education system," added Eshetu.
The programme is developed in line with the country's Second Growth and Transformation Plan that is geared towards ensuring food security and ending abject poverty, he added.
School Feeding programme has been implemented in many countries and is critically vital in countries where there is food shortage and malnutrition. It is also a systematic approach to minimize school dropout, said Bachir Sarr, Partnership for Children Development(PCD) Senior Policy Analyst.
It is good that the government looks to own the school feeding programme and social safety net and helps vulnerable community. Effective school feeding programme requires strong coordination among education, health and agriculture sectors. At starting point and needs more scale up , helping Ethiopia find the necessary support and provide various assistance.
"PCD has been doing various activities in Ethiopia particularly in 30 schools located at SNNP State. We have been providing daily school feeding services, sanitation facilities and health educational facilities and others. And we have seen an increase in student enrolment and decrease in infections diseases.
School feeding scheme supports children going to schools to be nurtured and have good physiological and psychological make up," noted Laura Appleby (PhD) Partnership for Child Development Neglected Tropical Disease Programme Manager.
Laura said the government of Ethiopia and other partners are now committed to schools in drought areas in terms humanitarian aid. Poor nutrition leads to poor cognition ability. Hence, school feeding will maximize the cognitive potentials of students.
"It does take huge resource and proper policy to implement national school feeding scheme. PCD is committed to work with the Ministry of Education to develop practical national strategy in this regard," added Laura.
The National School Health Nutrition Strategy would be officially launched today.