Hungry kids miss free meals while schools shut

Programme was for 1.5 million children daily, Sh11 per child daily.

In Summary

• School feeding programme targets the poorest and most exposed children and communities. Schools closed, so no more meals. 

• School leaders call for a national scheme to reach children eligible for free school meals, despite closures.

Students of Mikoroshoni Primary School in Mtwapa, Kilifi county, having lunch
NO MORE FREE MEALS: Students of Mikoroshoni Primary School in Mtwapa, Kilifi county, having lunch
Image: FILE:

Hungry children who need free lunches will stay hungry because of school closure to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

For many vulnerable children, the free school lunch was their only meal of the day.

There's pressure to feed the 1.5 million children somehow outside of schools. 

The programme targets the poorest and most exposed children in arid, semi-arid and slum communities.

Belio Kipsang, the Basic Education PS, earlier told Parliament that the free lunch is the only meal some children have in a day, it's also an incentive to go to school. He testified before the Education Committee of the National Assembly in February.

No details have been released by the government on how the programme could be implemented outside of school, despite funds having been released to schools before the lockdown.

The government allocates Sh1.6 billion to the programme that targets 1.5 million children each day. The government sets aside Sh11 per child per day.

School leaders are calling on the government to urgently introduce a national scheme, providing a blueprint to reach children eligible for free school meals.

Indimuli Kahi, Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman, on Sunday said no communication had been made on the programme. But he backs the idea of a national plan to reach those in need.

He said they would raise the issue with the ministry when they discuss the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on education.

Kenya Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo said it’s “shameful” that children who relied on the lunch as their main meal have been sidelined.

“Nobody is talking about them,” he said.

Speaking to the Star, Maiyo has said the government and the ministry of coordination should ensure the vulnerable are protected.

Maiyo wants the government to consider a national scheme to ensure all eligible children receive food through a government-coordinated programme.

He said many families struggle to earn a living and their needs are more acute because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Most of our households live from hand to mouth. They make a living by day and disruption in daily activities for hours, let alone a day, has a hard ripple effect on their pay,” he said.

This means they cannot afford to buy necessities and food, Maiyo said. Their children, who depended on free school meals, remain hungry. The little food in the family has to go further to give them a little.

Education ministry officials did not respond to texts or messages asking how they plan to help hungry vulnerable children.

(Edited by V. Graham)