The school feeding programme will now be a shared function between the national and county governments, according to Education CS Ezekiel Machogu.
Machogu, who spoke on Wednesday at St George’s Primary School in Nairobi during a meeting with head teachers of public primary schools, said plans are underway to anchor the arrangement into the law.
"The Ministry of Education and the government of Nairobi are finalising a legal instrument that will guide the partnership by outlining the obligations of each party and spell out the implementation mechanisms, among others," said Machogu.
The CS said the programme is essential in ensuring increased enrolment in schools. "It will also increase the concentration of learners during lessons. A hungry student will not be able to focus. We are doing this as part of the many ongoing efforts to ensure 100 per cent transition across all levels of basic education," said the CS.
Nairobi County has already launched the school feeding programme dubbed called Dishi Na County. Under the arrangement, the government has established mega kitchens in 10 sub-counties - Dagoretti North, Embakasi Central, Embakasi South, Kasarani, Kibra, Makadara, Starehe, Roysamu, Ruaraka and Westlands - where food will be prepared and the children served.
The programme will cost parents Sh5 per plate of food while the county government will foot the rest of the cost, of Sh25, per child, per day.
The programme targets to feed about 250,000 children in Nairobi enrolled in public primary schools and public Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) centres.
Machogu said the School Meals Programme will also be launched in the 26 Arid and Semi-Arid (ASAL) counties at a cost of Sh2 billion. Currently, the programme covers 2.3 million children in food-insecure areas.
In Nairobi, Machogu noted that the UJI programme, funded by National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK), is currently benefiting 120 primary schools.
The Ministry of Education and the county government of Nairobi, he said, are finalising a legal instrument that will facilitate the partnership that will spread to the rest of the counties.
Support the programme
The CS asked school heads to support the programme as he tasked them to sensitise their school communities, especially the parents, guardians and learners about it.
"We expect you to support the implementation team by facilitating the monitoring and evaluation of the programme. Once the legal instrument is finalised, the ministry will provide you with further guidance on the programme, and what is expected of you," Machogu said.
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He said the government will secure additional partnerships and resources so as to expand the reach of the programme to special needs schools and camp-based refugee schools countrywide.
Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang said the ‘tap and eat’ technology that will be used by the Dishi Na County, will also be helpful in knowing the school population and attendance data.
City governor Johnson Sakaja said the progress of the kitchen construction is almost 50 per cent complete.
He said the school feeding programme will be followed up with education infrastructure development by increasing schools and classrooms which will be a partnership with the national government.
"We are turning a new page on education in Nairobi because the city's child has been left behind for a long time," said Sakaja.
He added: "Devolution is not competition but partnership to work together. We are building 5,000 classrooms out of which the national government will take care of 3,500. Every year, for the next three years, the central government will be putting in Sh1 billion while we inject Sh500 million into this classroom project."
The governor assured current staff involved in cooking and serving food that they will not lose their jobs since they will be given first priority among the 2,000 people that will be employed in the programme.
The city boss also said the county plans to increase schools starting with 14 wards that have no public school.
Working with the ministry
"We have a technical group that is working with the ministry, led by the PS and my chief officer. They are preparing a report on how this will be done. We will build the new classrooms in existing schools with a focus on storey buildings that take less land," said Sakaja.
Kenya Primary School Head Teachers Association (Kepsha) chairman Johnson Nzioka asked CS to continue with school capitation to ensure improvement of infrastructure in schools, especially the Alternative Providers for Basic Education and Training (APBET) schools.
He also called on Sakaja to help address the huge water bills schools are incurring, which he said, are running into millions of shillings.
"Kindly think of waiving the water bills. After offering the children free food, we hope they can also be given free water," said Nzioka, in a speech read on his behalf by the association's treasurer Ken Kyeva.