By The Inspirer
The Ministry of Education has embarked on a new undertaking which seeks to ensure that all school children get at least half a litre of milk per day on their school meal menu.
The development means that a student would consume about 180 litres of milk per year, which is well above the 80 litres that Rwanda targets by 2020, according to the National Dairy Strategy.
The initiative, the ministry stated, is intended to help children get nutritious and balanced meals that the body needs to stay healthy.
The inclusion of milk on the student’s diet is not meant to increase the cost of the meal they have been taking, the ministry warned explaining that it concerns all children in schools (nursery, primary and secondary) including boarding ones, and establishments where students spend the whole day acquiring knowledge.
Eugene Mutimura, Minister of Education, told Sunday Times that the ministry will have issued instructions to schools on this initiative before February 15, 2019.
He pointed out that adding milk to the students’ food is a matter of priority, pointing out that giving precedence to the intake of milk in the feeding programme will help improve nutrition of children at school.
The minister said that there are two types of students namely those who have been getting meals at school, and those who have not.
“Normally, the food that the students get consists of Unga (maize meal), beans or other diverse food. Under this feeding programme now, we request them (schools) that they include milk in the meals,” he said.
“This implies that instead of providing a plate containing beans and maize meal, or rice and beans alone, they should look for ways to integrate milk in the routine diet,” he said observing that it requires more mindset change than monetary cost.
To make sure the activity becomes successful, the ministry will work with schools, the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources as well as other partners.
He said needed milk is available at milk collection centres at between Rwf200 and Rwf300 a litre.
Head teachers who spoke to Sunday Times welcomed the initiative concurring with the ministry that milk is a nutritious commodity that can help in addressing malnutrition, and support school children’s growth and performance, especially as they spend about half of the day at school.
However, they argued that its implementation is challenging given the experience observed in the already existing school feeding programme where some parents cannot even afford Rwf10,000 school feeding contribution per term (a three month-period).
The government provides about Rwf56 support to each student’s school feeding per day.
Damien Secumi, head teacher of G S Sekera in Nyaruguru District said that the school has about 500 students, but, those whose make contributions on time are almost half.
“The parents’ committee approved Rwf2,000 contribution to school feeding per month. We normally feed the students with Unga and beans, and the meal per student costs about Rwf100. Milk is expensive as half liter is Rwf100 in our area,” he said.
The ministry also stated that school leaders should to feed children with provisions produced domestically, especially from areas where they located in a bid to reduce the cost, and benefit the local producers.
Gahiga Gashumba, the Chairman of Rwanda National Dairy Farmers’ Federation, told Sunday Times that once the initiative is undertaken, it will offer a ready market to farmer’s milk, encourage investment in the dairy subsector and large production.
“For the schools to get quality milk, there is need for building the capacity of milk collection centres so that they get equipment to pasteurise the milk. That can ease the price and transport cost,” he recommended.
Rwanda’s milk production increased from about 710,000 metric tonnes in 2015 to over 816,000 metric tonnes in 2018, according to figures from Rwanda Agriculture Board.
Source: The New Times
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