The recent school feeding programme suspension in primary schools and Community Based Childcare Centers (CBCCs) in Karonga District has affected learners’ attendance.
St Mary’s Girls Primary School head teacher Laurent Mweghama said the school is experiencing poor attendance especially in standard one to four since the provision of porridge to learners was suspended following cholera outbreak.
“We have tried at school management level to conduct several meetings with parents in order to encourage them to take responsibility of preparing food for their children as they come to school, but this is not bearing any fruit.
“The school has many learners in lower classes from standard one to four and each of these classes has [sub] classes from A to C but the number of pupils is now dwindling,” he said.
Standard four teacher at the school Thokozire Anna Nkhoma said she used to have 106 pupils in her class but now the number has reduced to 86 since the suspension of the feeding programme recently.
Nkhoma expressed worry that many pupils might miss examinations due to their absenteeism.
“We are just remaining with few weeks to hold end-of-second-term examinations, and my worry is that many pupils will miss their examinations if their parents will not start preparing some food for their children,” she said.
Situated at Karonga Boma, St Mary’s Girls Primary School has the highest enrollment in the district.
Project manager for Lusubilo, a catholic organisation dealing with vulnerable children, Gerald Nyamwera said the suspension has also affected attendance in Community Based Childcare Centers (CBCCs).
To this effect, Nyamwera said for the past three weeks, the organization has been conducting sensitization campaigns to urge communities to keep on sending their children to CBCCs despite porridge provision suspension.
Since November last year, Karonga has registered 338 cases of cholera with seven deaths out of the country’s recorded 764 cases and 24 deaths as of Tuesday March 13, according to an update from Ministry of Health.
The situation prompted authorities to suspend the feeding programme in the district to protect learners.
Malawi Government, through Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, with support from World Food Programme (WFP) started the school feeding programme in 1994 to reduce dropout rate among learners.
The programme is currently covering 17 percent of 5,118 public schools in the country.
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