World Food Programme, WFP says innovative approaches in the provision of school feeding, such as students’ take-home rations, proved to be effective way of keeping schoolchildren in Nimba and Maryland Counties safe while reading and reviewing their lessons at home when schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said the Government of Liberia and the World Food Programme (WFP) provided food packages of rice, oil, and beans in April 2020 and June 2020 to support over 90,000 schoolchildren from kindergarten to grade six to continue their learning activities.
According to WFP release, the 90-thousand students benefitting from the school feeding program were forced to stay at home in March 2020, when Liberia confirmed its first case of COVID-19, and the subsequent lockdown that affected all learning institutions.
“Prior to March 2020, WFP and the Ministry of Education provided school meals to more than 90,000 students in Nimba and Maryland Counties making the school feeding programme one of the largest social safety net programmes in the country” the UN Agency narrated.
According to WFP, the key component of “saving lives, changing lives” strategy, which is the school feeding, provides multiple benefits for the development of Liberian children.
The Agency said school feeding boosts school enrolment and attendance, improves classroom participation and retention, discourages school dropouts, prevents school-time hunger among children, and lessens the financial burden of lunch money on parents.
The release quotes WFP as saying, in consonance with the Ministry of Education daily hot meals to students in kindergarten through grade six, and monthly take-home rations to girl students in grades four to six have been provided to encourage the enrolment of girls in a country where boys are traditionally sent to school over girls.
The WFP release also quoted Naomi Harris; a 32 year old Mother as saying the WFP strategy to provide take-home family rations to both girls and boys during the COVID-19 school closures was successful and became an impressive game changer for teachers, children and parents.
Ministry of Education School Feeding Coordinator in Nimba County, Mr. G. Markson Pewue, lauded WFP take-home rations as a unifying force for the family. Mr. Pewe said families of primary school students in 301 schools in Nimba benefited from the WFP take-home rations in April and June 2020 during the COVID-19 school closures.
WFP quotes Mr. Pewe as expressing optimism for more student enrolment in 2021, if the provision of WFP take-home rations continue, both parents and students will be attracted to the schools, thus increasing school enrolment and retention as well as increasing parent’s involvement in their children’s education”
“In early 2021, WFP will provide 1,000 schoolboys and girls with a commodity voucher or mobile money with a transfer value of USD 15 that will support access to locally available, nutritious foods” WFP has disclosed.
WFP also said throughout 2021, it and the Ministry of Education will provide school meals to 90,000 students through cash-based transfers, take-home rations, and on-site school meals.