More food needed as WFP withdraws

Eating nutritious food is essential for the progress, development and functioning of children and adults. A hungry child cannot concentrate on study, loses the desire to play and lacks the energy for any physical and mental activity.

The Bhutan Education Blue Print 2014-2024 mentions that the School Feeding Programme (SFP), a collaboration between the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) for past 40 years has helped to increase school enrolment and attendance rates, reduced the drop rate, helped improve the short-term nutritional status of school going children besides enabling generations of Bhutanese students attain education and realize their potential.

The blue print report states that there are 51,886 students benefiting from SFP, of which 33,131 students are borders and 18,755 are day feeding students. Due to the recent reports of the serious nutrient deficient health problems in the three schools with SFP, the government revised the monthly stipend from Nu 700 to Nu 1000 per student in 2012, while in 2014 the revised stipend was streamlined for use for food alone.

According to the report, the challenge of feeding the students will only continue to rise in following years as the number of students availing the SFP will double with the establishment of 24 pilot central schools in country by 2015.

Also the WFP is scheduled to withdraw from Bhutan by the end of 2018, and the SFP will need to be solely supported by the government.

The report highlights that in next four years as WFP transitions towards its withdrawal, the government will have to explore sustainable means to support the SFP to ensure education continuity and attainment of students.

According to the blueprint, a recent meeting of stakeholders involved found that although the importance of school feeding is mentioned in the food and nutrition security policy, however, the overall policy level of school feeding is not mentioned, as such, in the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The report says that a comprehensive school feeding policy has not been established, even with the National Education Policy and the Cabinet’s written instructions to strengthen the national school feeding program. The report states that a stable and independent funding source will ensure the sustainability and quality of the SFP.

According to the Bhutan Education Blueprint report, the recommended interventions are to develop and implement a school feeding policy to ensure sustainability and quality, enhance the knowledge and skills of school mess coordinator and cooks to ensure that students have access to nutritional food, conduct regular monitoring of the feeding in schools to provide necessary support, and strengthen the school agriculture program to supplement the feeding program in schools through use of government barren land or private land on lease.

Tshering Dorji/ Thimphu


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