Amid worsening hunger triggered by the effects of El Niño-related drought, Namibia is investing in the expansion of its National School Feeding programme to ensure more learners receive nutritious meals and stay in school.
The Government of Namibia is taking charge of the future of its children with plans to introduce school meals to secondary schools – in addition to pre- and primary schools which are already part of the national School Feeding programme.
Currently, the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture is giving a nutritious mid-morning maize blend to some 330,000 pre-primary and primary school learners throughout the country.This is about to change for the better after the Ministry of Education developed an ambitious National School Feeding draft policy with technical assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP).
The ministry is looking at sourcing much of the food for schools from local producers. It is anticipated that the shift to buying locally as outlined in the draft school feeding policy will stimulate a stable demand for food at the local level and also encourage the production of a variety of foods needed to diversify the school diet.
The policy recognises that investing in Namibia’s future is not a task for the government alone, but also demands the involvement of other actors such as local food producers, the private sector, local communities and civil society.
Happy to be eating with friends at school: Some of the learners at a school in Windhoek enjoy their maize meal during a mid-morning break. The Government of Namibia is planning to diversify the school meals to also include other foods such as vegetables and the traditional Mahangu porridge (millet meal). Photo: WFP
Anna Nghipondoka, Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Education, says that expansion of the School Feeding programme will help address a number of challenges.
“These include high repetition and drop-out rates in primary schools. Expanding the meals to secondary schools will also help boost the enrolment rate, which is currently at less than 60 percent,” says Nghipondoka. “School meals act as an incentive for learners to remain in school and that’s important during this difficult time of drought.”
WFP Representative in Namibia Jennifer Bitonde says where hunger is a problem school meals can improve learners’ health and nutrition.
“In Namibia, the School Feeding programme provides multiple benefits such as improving learners’ performance in class and contributes to government efforts towards ending hunger,” says Bitonde. “WFP will continue providing technical assistance to the government to build upon accomplishments realised over the years.”
Namibia is one of the few countries in southern Africa that has transitioned its School Feeding programme from being reliant on external funding to a sustainable model that is fully funded and managed by the government. The education authorities of a number of countries including Nigeria have visited Namibia to find out how this has been achieved.