Shortage of maize and beans, lack of capitation threaten closure of schools

A pupil is served lunch at Magoso Primary School in Kibra on the first day of opening. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

An acute shortage of cereals has hit Nakuru, Narok and Nyandarua counties in the last two weeks, pushing prices over the roof.

The move has left schools and orphanages in dire need of maize and beans as the prices have doubled, worsening the situation.

The shortage was attributed to the recent drought, failure by the government to import maize as promised and hoarding by some farmers.

Some public schools have warned that they could be forced to close early due to the shortage and failure of the government to release the capitation funds.

Patients' food

According to Sister Florence Muia from Upendo Village in Naivasha, the shortage had adversely affected their operations in the facility that deals with HIV patients.

She said that a 90kg bag of beans was going for Sh15,000 from Sh6,000 a couple of weeks back, making it near impossible to feed their patients.

"Despite the prices going up, getting the beans and maize has been a major challenge leading to suffering at a time when many families are sleeping hungry," she said.

On her part, the chairperson of Mirera Secondary School Parents Association, Naomi Githua, said that the free-food programme targeting students from informal settlements could collapse.

"Currently the price of a 90kg bag of maize is going for Sh6,500 from Sh3,000, and getting a produce is a major headache," she said.

Githua noted that the free-feeding school programme had kept many of the students from the informal settlement in class, adding that there was a need to support it.

Worse times

Samson Kimani, a trader, warns things would get worse in the coming days.

He said that they were buying the cereals from Uganda and Tanzania, adding that the high prices of fuel were affecting the current prices.

"For the last month, the region has faced an acute shortage of maize and beans, and the most affected are schools, with the prices rising by the day," he said.

The Secretary-General National Parents Association (NPA) Eskimos Kobia said the situation had worsened due to the failure of the government to release the capitation funds, thus limiting the purchasing powers of public schools.

"The most affected counties are Nakuru, Narok and Nyandarua, and we are asking the national government to intervene before schools close early due to lack of food," he said.