A 5-year grant, worth $25 million (Rwf19 billion), by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) McGovern-Dole has been awarded to World Food Programme (WFP) Rwanda to support the national school feeding programme.
Four districts namely; Karongi, Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru and Rutsiro will benefit from the grant which will be implemented by WFP in partnership with the Ministry of Education and that of Agriculture.
During the signing ceremony at the US embassy on Monday, US envoy to Rwanda, Erica Barks-Ruggles said Rwanda’s school feeding programme deserves all the support, observing that the programme had been fruitful by increasing school attendance and improving students’ performance.
The Minister for Agriculture, Geraldine Mukeshimana, said the government recognises the school feeding programme as a tool that can potentially reduce school dropout rate and fight malnutrition among the children, adding that farmers and food processors in the country will also benefit from the grant.
Valerie N. Guarnieri, the WFP Regional Director for East and Central Africa, said Rwanda becomes the third country in the region, after Ethiopia and Kenya, to receive such a grant due to the government’s commitment to education.
“We are overwhelmed by the government’s engagement in education programmes from the national to local levels. The value of nutritious school meal will not be fully realised unless the school facilities are good and the school curriculum is strong. So, we need the involvement of all stakeholders such as the government, community, parents, teachers and well-wishers,” she said.
According to Guarnieri, WFP provides school meals to 20 million school children globally with two million in the region alone.
Krysta Harden, the USDA Deputy Secretary-General, said the support will help promote academic performance among school children, adding it is a shame to fail to eradicate hunger in schools.
“When we introduce a nutritious school meal, we get an immediate a rise in school attendance and performance.
We all know it is very difficult to learn when hungry, so introduction of a nutrious meal helps students keep focused on studies hence improved academic grades,” she said.
The school feeding programme has been facing challenges including the failure of vulnerable families to meet the required contributions since the programme was introduced mid last year