Break in feeding resulted in 29 percent drop in daily attendance
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and authorities at the Ministry of Education (MoE) have announced that they will shortly resume the flagship School Meals Program in nine of the 15 counties. The program will target 127,000 primary students in government schools.
Johnson Kolubah, WFP head of School Meals Program, said the organization’s country office has been working on the commodity procurement and shipment to begin school meals for the targeted beneficiaries, including 4,000 girls who will also receive take home rations as encouragement for them to remain in school.
School feeding is an important intervention that encourages daily school attendance. During an outcome monitoring survey the WFP and MoE conducted in May this year, many parents and school administrators reported that the smoke from the school kitchen is a sign of food being prepared at the schools and thus encourages students to attend each day they see smoke floating over the school compound.
At the same time, school meals improve retention and helps parents cope with the stress of providing daily lunch money for their children.
The current WFP Country School Meals Program was largely supported by the United States Department of Agriculture, under the McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition FY 2013 Award. It is a three-year grant from 2014 to 2016 which experienced a temporary break in feeding for WFP assisted schools in February this year.
The break in feeding resulted in about 29 percent drop in daily attendance at the schools supported by WFP between March and June.
In August this year, WFP mobilized limited resources to resume the school meals program for four months in Gbapolu, Nmba, Bassa, Rivercess, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, RiverGee, Grand Kru and Maryland counties.
WFP Liberia’s Deputy Country Director, Asif Bhutto, said the organization is deeply concerned about the prevailing funding constraints for the school meals program.
“We are reaching out to all development partners and engaging our donors in an effort to mobilize additional resources to continue with school meals beyond the specified four months,” Bhutto said.
In preparation for the resumption of the program, MoE and WFP in late September, conducted the county stakeholders’ training on a regional basis for 153 personnel, including County Chief Education Officers, District Education Officers, District Supervising Principals, County School Feeding Coordinators, District School Feeding Focal Persons, and WFP School Meals Focal Persons from all the nine WFP supported counties.
Importantly, WFP and MoE have also planned community and school-level training targeting 2,344 principals, food managers (school record keepers), cooks as well as Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) members.
The training, WFP said will be conducted this month and will focus on the roles of the selected actors in the school meals program implementation and management at the school and community levels.