Sakaja school feeding program to face court action

President William Ruto, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja and Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris during the Launch of Nairobi County School Feeding Programme, Roysambu Primary School. [Hiram Omondi/PCS.]

Nairobi County's school feeding programme may be settled in court as education lobby threatens to challenge the initiative claiming it may not be all inclusive.

Governor Johnson Sakaja said that some 250,000 learners in public primary schools and nursery centres in Nairobi will now have a meal in school.

This is after the County government launched a Sh1.2 billion school feeding program dubbed 'Dishi Na County' that is set to give nutritious meals to all learners in schools.

If the program succeeds, Sakaja said that the challenge of malnutrition in children in government owned schools in the lower cadre of education will be a thing of the past.

He said the initiative will also boost the enrolment of children in schools which has been dwindling following hard economic challenges.

Education Rights Specialist Muthoni Ouko said there are more needy children in non-formal schools in Nairobi than there are in public primary schools.

‘‘We shall move to court to seek orders stopping spending of Nairobi County funds In programmes that Further Marginalize the poorest of the poor in Nairobi and programs that do not seek to share Nairobi’s wealth equitably,’’ Muthoni said.

Muthoni who is also the Executive Director, Tunza Mtoto Coalition that operates in slums say she will mobilize parents of whose children are deprived to mass action and also petition the Members of County Assembly (MCAs) whose wards will be locked out of the programme.

She further said whereas there are 205 public primary schools in the city, more than 3000 non formal schools supplement the government effort to offer education. 

‘‘That in a ward like Njiru that has only 2 public primary schools, there are over 15 non formal schools spread across the Maili Saba informal settlement,’’ she stated.

The same concern had been raised by Mathare Member of Parliament Anthony Oluoch saying many learners in informal settlement schooling in Alternative Providers for Basic Education and Training (APBET) skip school for lack of meals.

‘‘What is the government doing to ensure that learners in our informal settlement also benefit from the school feeding programme from the government,’’ Oluoch stated.

Sakaja however said initiative will save the students from the challenge of insecurity while walking in and out of school looking for what to keep them going on.

"Many young learners in public schools lack concentration and are not able to attend school regularly due to lack of food thus leading to poor academic performance," Sakaja said.

Muthoni Ouko revealed that some 10 wards in Nairobi do not have a single public primary school.

She further said, even the few available cannot accommodate the high demand of learners in order to benefit from the government feeding program.

‘‘Feeding children from Public schools only therefore means that the Governor will only be feeding 11.2 percent of learners. It is clear that the feeding programme will further extend inequality, disadvantage and marginalization that has for long been metted on children and households of those who have been denied a chance to attend publicly funded education,’’ she said.

She urged the Count government instead of using the money on feeding a section of students, spend the funds to correct the injustice by establishing more schools which will bring back more children to the Publicly Funded Education.

‘‘Nairobians are watchful and committed to making sure that The massive taxes they pay are spent prudently to better the lives of all children sustainably,’’she said.

She ruled out that feeding the children is not the reason why more learners are out of school but due to heavy levies imposed on their households.

‘‘Majority of learners are attending non-formal centres or private schools where their parents struggle with levies despite paying taxes to Nairobi County,’’ she stated.

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu assured Sakaja that the government will roll out a programme that will cater for learner’s meals in the slums starting with Nairobi.

‘‘We have poor families in informal settlements in major towns. We are engaging development partners, of which one has offered to give us Sh1.6 billion,’’ Machogu said.

Machogu ministry will cooperate with the County government of Nairobi to provide food to some informal settlement in Nairobi and if funds allows we will spread to other affected towns.’

Sakaja said, with the program teachers will save a lot of time wasted students going round looking on what to cool their stomach.

He was speaking during the ground breaking ceremony to construct 17 kitchens to be used in the program.

Sakaja said the initiative will boost the performance of the learners as they will be more focused and energetic.

"The program will enable the learners to attend school more consistently, have their energy levels increased thus better equipping them to learn and reach their full potential," Sakaja said.

However, the households will have to contribute Sh5 daily towards the project with the county government catering for the running and administrative costs. 

The meals will be cooked and transported to all the public primary and ECD centres within the County.

The kitchens will be constructed in Dagoretti North, Embakasi Central, Embakasi South, Kasarani, Kibra, Makadara, Starehe, Roysambu, Ruaraka, and Westlands Sub-counties.

Sakaja said the feeding program will address hunger, improve nutrition, and create an enabling environment conducive for learning.

"As we continue to invest in school feeding programs, we invest in the potential of our children and pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous world," he stated.

School feeding program was initiated by the government as a way of holding learners in school in Arid and Semi-Arid areas.

The City boss said the program will also foster community engagement and empowerment through the provision of employment opportunities.

"The unskilled labourers will be selected from the local community during the construction of the kitchens," he stated.

Additionally, parents and community members will be given the opportunity to contribute their time and skills through cooking and serving the meals.

This collective effort will instil a sense of ownership and community pride, reinforcing the idea that education and well-being are shared responsibilities.