—intended to help enhance learning process
In order to ensure that learning is optimal within the classroom, the Ministry of Education has introduced a pilot breakfast programme. The programme was introduced on April 3, 2016 at three study sites within the Region Four
Education District, reaching a total of 657 children. These sites along the East Coast of Demerara are Buxton, Friendship and Enmore, which are a little less than eight kilometres apart.
The schools being targeted are: Hendons Nursery (30 children); Buxton Primary (19 children); Company Road Nursery (73 children); Company Road Primary (63 children); New Friendship Nursery (153 children); Ghandi Memorial Nursery (95 children); Enmore Primary (66 children); Blossom Scheme Nursery (72 children) and Enmore Newtown Nursery (86 children).
These sites, according to information disseminated by the Ministry, were selected to ensure that cultural acceptability is assessed within the two main coastal ethnic groups.
The Ministry has recognised too that “these communities have considerable experience of community efforts and, all communities have women with food handling certificates; training would thus be needed only in basic nutrition and book-keeping.”
The hunger experienced by a child due to an inadequate breakfast and/or because he or she has a long and arduous journey to school, is a major contributor to poor academic achievement. Moreover, the Ministry said that its aim is to expand and improve its school feeding programme to include a nutritionally balanced breakfast so that the impact of the crucial morning learning hours is not diminished.
“This pilot study is intended to examine the feasibility of implementing such a breakfast programme in schools in the coastal regions that have no cooking facilities. It will provide the essential information on cost, nutritional adequacy and community engagement to guide decisions on the design and budgetary implications of a full national school feeding programme (SFP), to be implemented in phases,” according to the Ministry.
Among the objectives of the initiative is to examine the feasibility of providing a nutritious breakfast consisting of a sandwich and a flavoured milk-based drink to children in nursery schools and Grades One and Two of primary schools in the three coastal communities.
This move, according to the Ministry, is to ensure the contribution of the meals provided to healthy eating habits with a sustainable approach based on the use of locally produced foods.
The programme is also geared at assessing the acceptability of the various breakfasts offered and to provide basic nutrition education to enhance the acceptability of healthy local food, taking into consideration cultural patterns of consumption.
The pilot initiative, according to the Ministry, will help to determine the cost to cater per child as well as the increase of the cost if utilizing local and healthy food, and to determine the nutritional value of the school breakfast options. The school breakfast, during the pilot programme, will be compared to what children are afforded at home.
The Ministry will also be able to assess the extent of the communities’ engagement and their willingness to help contribute facilities, time, cash or food commodities and to enhance social participation. And the Ministry will be looking particularly to families and Parent Teacher Associations to help contribute to nutrition education of schools so as to help ensure sustainability of the programme.
The programme, according to the Ministry, is expected to provide the basis for the development of a detailed plan for a sustainable school feeding programme that provides young children in coastal schools with a nutritious and culturally acceptable breakfast and promote and facilitate linkages with local production, with special consideration to small farmers.
Guyana’s school feeding programme currently provides a snack of fortified biscuits and juice to all children in nursery schools and in Grades One and Two of primary schools. Additionally, in hinterland primary schools, children are offered a hot lunch, prepared by trained community cooks and based, to the extent possible, on foods produced by the community.
In addition, as with the on-going hinterland community-based lunch programme, the intention is to engage local communities and farmers, so that the SFP contributes to poverty reduction, national development and national food and nutrition security.
The pilot study is expected to be followed by a stakeholder meeting which will essentially set the pace for Phase Two of the initiative. Phase Two will include the establishment of an inter-sectoral committee to guide all school feeding activities, engaging key relevant ministries. Further phases will include the testing of school gardens and the establishment of a rigorous monitoring and evaluation system.
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