Liberia: Gov’t Commits US$2 Million to School Feeding

Due to school feeding, enrollment has improved greatly in schools. 

Stakeholders for school feeding have disclosed that the Liberian government has committed US$2 million toward the country’s school feeding program.

The stakeholders made the disclosure yesterday during a radio talk show in Monrovia. 

The funding, when secured, will support school feeding in most public schools across the country as well as create markets or income opportunities for smallholder farmers through Home Grown School Feeding.

School feeding is currently being implemented by four partners including the World Food Program (WFP), Save the Children, Mary’s Meals, and Zoa in collaboration with the government through the Ministry of Education.

The intention of the program is to improve school enrollment and retention of school-going children mainly in public schools. However, the implementation of the program in recent times has been challenging due to the lack of or limited funding.

The Daily Observer reported last year that enrollment in several public schools in Nimba County was seriously hampered by the lack of school feeding.

As it is in other African countries, the Liberian government should by now have taken over school feeding programs because of promises made as part of an effort to improve education and food security within the country.

Though the stakeholders indicated the government’s commitment to fund the program maybe this year, the source of funding is not clear.

The fiscal year 2021/2022 national budget for education does not have an allotment for the support of school feeding. Nevertheless, the school feeding partners clarified during the radio talk show interview that negotiations are ongoing with the Ministry of Finance to approve funding for the program.

Amos Ballayan, head of the program at WFP, said during the show that the school feeding program has done tremendously well over the decades in Liberia with support from international partners and the government.

According to him, due to school feeding, enrollment has improved greatly in schools.

He said that under the WFP school feeding program approximately 56,000 school-going children are currently enjoying school meals in their respective institutions.

Ballayan stated that his institution is currently implementing the program in two counties, Maryland and Nimba.

He mentioned that the future of the program is great as they continue to collaborate with the government.

“We have the intention to expand the program if more funding is available,” he said.

“There are indications from the government to ensure that school feeding becomes a success,” he added.

Save The Children has budgeted close to US$30 million for the period of five years to support the program, the Daily Observer has learned.

The Communication Officer at the Ministry of Education, Maxim Bleetan, said his ministry is working with the partners to affect the lives of the children through school feeding.

According to him, they are very much impressed by the level of progress made by the partners despite the constraints.

He stated that school feeding remains the backbone of the educational system of the country.

He mentioned that more public schools across the country are currently benefiting from the program.

The MOE communication official said that many of the school feeding programs are limited to the public schools in order to meet the needs of vulnerable parents who are struggling to support their children’s education.

“The program is limited mainly to public schools due to the difficulties poor parents encounter to support their children,” he clarified.

According to the MOE official, they are proud of the level of work that is being carried out.

He said the program also supports the Homegrown school feeding.

Meanwhile, the government and its partners are expected to celebrate this year the African Day of School Feeding.

The day is set aside to emphasize the need for school feeding schemes as a way to increase enrollment and improve retention and performance. Millions of children in Africa do not attend school due to hunger.

This year's celebration will be held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County on May 13, and will be attended by some top government officials including the minister of Education, D. Ansu Soni, Agriculture Minister Jeanine Milly Cooper, Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweh, and other dignitaries as well as students, teachers and parents.