Governor John Lonyangapuo. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Over 503 Early Childhood Development and Education centres in West Pokot are set to get porridge flour to boost nutrition and school attendance.

The county has distributed porridge flour worth Sh10 million to ECDE centres, while a second batch valued at Sh20 million is expected to be distributed next week.

The county government rolled out the school feeding programme in 2019.

Learners in these centres will be served with a cup of porridge early in the morning and after classes every day.

The porridge flour contains various minerals aimed at fighting malnutrition.

According to the Kenya demographic and health survey- 2014 malnutrition rates in the county stood at 45.9 per cent with a high number of children suffering from chronic malnutrition due to poor feeding caused by food insecurity.

Another survey conducted by Uwezo Kenya in 2014 found that more than 60,000 children who had attained school-going age were not able to join school due to drought.

Children in far-flung areas are the worst hit, with some ECDE centres earlier recording 20 per cent attendance of the total enrolled children.

The children walk long distances, and hunger is among excuses parents have been using to stop them from attending school.

Speaking in Kapenguria, Governor John Lonyangapuo said early childhood education plays a key role in children’s development.

“The porridge is blended with 21 mineral components to boost nutrition levels among pupils. The porridge comprises corn, soya beans, sugar and fortifiers (vitamins and minerals),” he noted.

He added that the programme aims at increasing enrolment and enhancing retention.

Lonyangapuo cautioned ECDE teachers against using the flour for personal gain, adding that they will be held accountable.

He said his administration would ensure the programme is allocated more funds in the next financial year.

“The first years of a child’s life set the stage for all future growth. Good nutrition plays a crucial role during formative years when there’s rapid brain development,” he said.

Education Executive Jackson Yaralima said ECDE enrolment has been low because many parents don’t value early childhood education.

“Retention has been low because parents migrate with their children looking for pasture for their livestock,” he said.

Peter Lokwa, a parent, commended the initiative, saying the last planting season, crops failed.