Kids flee schools after feeding program halt
Food crisis looms in pastoralists areas
By Arusha Times Correspondent
Scores of students are running away from public schools in Arusha region after a school feeding programme was withdrawn by donors.
The move is feared would affect development of the education sector, especially in areas inhabited by nomadic pastoralists where school attendance has been poor.
The situation could worsen in the wake of the looming food crisis in the northern regions due to insufficient rains in the last farming season.
"Many students have quit schools for lack of food, leading to low attendance", lamented Kipara Ngine, the chairman of Arkata village in Monduli district.
He said despite efforts by the local authorities in Monduli and non-government organizations to sensitize the villagers on the importance of education, the situation remains grim.
School-age kids in Monduli district herding livestock
The chairman of the school committee Mr. Kipi Alarosi said they were pleading to various organizations to step in and provide food so as to ensure students attended schools.
No statistics on the students and schools presently affected were made available.
But students in areas inhabited by the nomadic herders in Arusha and Manyara regions had for years benefited from food rations provided by the World Food Programme (WFP).
The support ended some years ago, sparking complaints from stakeholders in education who maintained that food was also a motivation to make students from marginalized communities to attend school.
In 2010/2011, for instance, about 142,908 students from 313 schools in the two regions benefitted from Food-for-Education Programme (FFP) which was being implemented by WFP.
Schools under FFE received two meals a day being mid- morning breakfast and lunch. The move, according to WFP officials then, improved school attendance and performance of students.
The programme was introduced because low primary school enrolment and attendance, in particular, has been attributed to food insecurity with many children withdrawing in early years.
In Karatu district increased cases of students going into fishing in Lake Eyasi has been attributed to shortage of food in their families and lack of any school feed programme.
Many school kids from villages around the saline lake would normally go fishing and sell the fish catch for a few shillings in which they use to buy maize flour for their families.
Mr. Alarosi said besides the food crisis facing the students, many school buildings were dilapitated in the rural Arusha which need urgent repairs.
The director of Monduli Pastoralist Development Initiative (MPDI) Erasto Sanare said they have started to look for funds for rehabilitation of the school buildings.
One of the affected primary schools is at Donyonaado village, located some 64 kilometres from Monduli town, where the cracked walls are posing danger to the students.
The village chairman Mr. Malulu Kutetei said the school was also facing a shortage of living quarters for its teachers as well as scarcity of water. He called for intervention by the government.