Euphoria engulfed schools around the country when Government upgraded the primary school feeding programme by adding new components to the menu including eggs, fruits and vegetables in the 2018/19 financial year. Elsewhere in political circles the announcement by Government was dismissed as an unsustainable political gimmick by the incoming administration. Head of Communications in the Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development (MLGRD), Masego Ramakgati, tells The Patriot on Sunday that the programme is benefitting almost 400 000 pupils in 755 primary schools around the country.
The Patriot: Have you rolled out the plan in all pre and primary schools throughout the country?
RESPONSE The menu has been shared with all local authorities and all primary schools. To date implementation has started countrywide.
The Patriot: How many schools and pupils are currently benefitting from this programme?
RESPONSE: All government primary schools in Botswana i.e 364108 pupils in 755 primary schools including pre-school pupils.
The Patriot: Kindly elaborate/explain how the programme, through its menu, will “provides nutrients to promote optimal health, growth and development”
RESPONSE: In the old menu, which Government is slowly phasing out, only foods containing macronutrients such as water, carbohydrates, oils and protein were provided and this was not enough for the body to attain other energy-providing nutrients which provide growth, repair and development of new body tissues. In the revised menu nutrients known as micronutrients have been added which include minerals and vitamins to promote optimal growth and development. So the combination of macronutrients and micronutrients are important for the normal functioning of the body.
The Patriot: Any challenges in the rollout?
RESPONSE: The Ministry currently experiences insufficient supply of UHT milk to cater for breakfast meal due to banned importation of raw milk from South Africa following outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. Milk is critical in this endeavor as it is required in tea and soft porridge.
Part of the benefit of this programme is to “economically empower and capacitate Batswana to promote micro and small scale entrepreneurship”.
The Patriot: How many such entrepreneurs have been engaged thus far?
RESPONSE: The Ministry is yet to compute and finalize the total number of the entrepreneurs engaged countrywide.
The Patriot: What is the total monthly cost of the programme?
RESPONSE: Government provides the following food stuffs: milk, sorghum, bread butter/jam, fruits and eggs, to 368298 pupils in all primary schools. The estimate cost per month amounts to P12,163,587 and of course this is an estimate based on the current prices.
The Patriot: How many jobs have been created at inception of the programme? How many of those are for the a) youth and b) women?
RESPONSE: The Ministry is yet to compute the total number of youth and women once the procurement process has been completed across all the Local Authorities.
Media reports have in the past revealed that contracts which government had intended to promote local small scale entrepreneurs were hijacked by established businessmen from elsewhere in collusion with some officers.
The Patriot: What are you doing to ensure that as much as practically possible local communities benefit from this initiative?
RESPONSE: Procurement of these food items is carried out at the local level and not centrally. Naturally the tenders will target locals in line with Local Economic Development (LED) and Economic Diversification Drive (EDD).
The Patriot: There is speculation that, coming in an election year, this programme is a political gimmick intended to deceive citizens/ potential voters. Kindly comment on the observation.
RESPONSE: The revised menu was approved by Government in 2013/14 financial year. New components in the menu have gradually been introduced such as: eggs, fruits and vegetables, which the Ministry started to provide in 2018/19 financial year. There are other components that are yet to be introduced but because of limited budget, they remain deferred.
The introduction of breakfast is solely meant to ensure that the gaps which exist between the secondary schools and primary schools meals are closed. The menu is also intended to address issues of micro nutrients which the old menu did not provide as indicated above. Funds permitting other components will gradually be introduced in this plan period.
The Patriot: How sustainable is the feeding programme, looking at the cost implications.
RESPONSE: It is Government’s intention and commitment to make this Programme sustainable.