ONGWEDIVA – With schools set to open today, vulnerable children could be deprived of a meal, as there is no food procured for the Namibia School Feeding Programme (NSFP).
The delay could mean that children who rely on a meal at school may have to go hungry until the end of August, as the process to get food to the schools takes at least 21 days from the day of order.
The feeding programme caters for 431 500 learners across the country.
The education ministry was given a greenlight by the Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN) at the beginning of May to carry out emergency procurement but the process is not yet finalised.
Although the last consignment should have been in the regions already by end of June, there is still no food delivered to the schools.
“This is an emergency holiday brought about by the pandemic; if the learners were at school today, they would not have had food now even if the food is ordered today. The fact remains that the learners will not have food for at least a whole month,” said a ministry of education source, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Education ministry spokesperson Sem Shino said the procurement process is expected to be finalised this week and food will be available at schools next week if there is no further hiccups from the suppliers.
Shino said schools that procured food before the abrupt closure, necessitated by rising Covid-19 infections in June, will not have their meals disturbed.
However, those who do not have anything in stock will have to wait for the food to be delivered.
Shino maintained the procuring of the food took longer than expected but added the ministry is working around the clock to have the food at schools.
“We are finalising logistics matters but we are working around the clock to bring the food to the schools on time,” said Shino.
The source further said the few maize bags left in the regions at some schools have already reached their expiry date at the end of June 2021 but are fit for consumption for at least two more months.
The situation is daunting because the one meal provided at the schools for some children is their only meal for the day.
The Ministry of Procurement Committee (PMU) has been sitting on the matter since the invitation of the bids closes at the end of May.
The director of education in Kavango West, Teopolina Hamutumua, said she does not know of the food challenge.
“I am not alerted to the challenge,” Hamutumua said.
She said if it is the case, the educational marginalised community in her region will be negatively affected.
She said the school feeding motivates and attracts a good enrolment at the beginning of each term because the majority depends on this meal.
“We have a lot of marginalised children in the region – and some only show up when they see the maize blend; when there is no food, some go back,” said Hamutumua
The director of education in Ohangwena, Isak Hamatwi, said the last consignment last term came late; hence, schools might still have food in their reserve.
“Our food came late last term, so not much was consumed, unless the schools gave them out to the learners when they went on holiday,” said Hamatwi.
Hamatwi said the feeding programme is very important at schools, particularly for the vulnerable children.
“It attracts and keeps learners in school. I cannot say they would drop out but it will negatively affect them,” said Hamatwi.
Previously, the food for the feeding programme was procured by the regions; however, the decision was reserved for the food to be procured centrally.