School meal programme continues

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The education ministry and development partners are set to continue a school meal programme in target provinces in a bid to increase enrolment. Photo supplied

The government and development partners are working to expand a school meal programme to help increase enrolment, attendance and graduation rates while improving children’s access to nutrition to better facilitate their education.

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports spokesman Ros Soveacha said on January 24 that the government is committed to developing the school meal programme by raising funds for the construction of new kitchens, dining and washroom facilities at schools in the coming years.

He affirmed the ministry’s continued cooperation with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Executive Committee of the National Social Protection Council and other partners to strengthen implementation of the programme in target schools.

Soveacha said the ministry is expanding the number of target schools from 205 to 290. Located in Siem Reap, Oddar Meanchey and Kampong Speu provinces, those schools will be transferred from the WFP in 2022. The ministry will continue to examine the possibility of accepting more schools under the government’s annual budget.

On January 21, education minister Hang Chuon Naron and WFP country director Claire Anne Conan led a meeting regarding implementation of the school meal programme.

Conan expressed the WFP’s appreciation of its partnership with the ministry to implement the meal programme as part of social protection measures aimed to ensure vulnerable children have access to nutritious hot meals every day before they start classes.

“WFP will continue to support and work with the ministry to ensure the sustainability of this important life-changing programme,” she said.

Chuon Naron thanked the WFP for its active collaboration with the ministry in providing food for schools across Cambodia, which encourages children to attend school regularly, on time and all day. It has been especially important for younger children.

“Providing adequate nutrition is vital to sustain their physical, mental and emotional health so that they can focus on their studies,” he said.

With technical and financial support from the WFP during the academic year 2019-2020, the ministry began transferring implementation of some school meal programmes, entailing the provision of breakfasts and lunches prepared with agricultural products from local communities, at 10 target schools located in the five provinces of Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap.

The government currently subsidises school meal programmes in the provinces of Kampong Cham, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and some districts in Siem Reap.

The programme also aims to increase incomes in the target communities through diversifying production of agricultural goods to supply foods for school meals.