Far North: Free school meals tremendously increasing school attendance.

In far flung communities of the Far North Region, many children do not stay in school till the end of class because of biting hunger.

With the World Bank holding that the Region is the poorest in Cameroon, with 74 percent of the population living below 1,000 FCFA a day, the phenomenon, favoured by high level lack and want, makes education less effective in the education priority zone.

An example of a school suffering from the phenomenon is Government Primary School, Dimeo, Mokolo Subdivision in the Mayo Tsanaga Division.

Here, the school is almost empty by 10 a.m. Most of the pupils returned home to fill their stomachs.

"These children leave their houses without eating. When they come to school after two to three hours only, they run back home to find something to eat. That is all for the day as they do not return to school again," said Jackson Konaï, Head Teacher of the school.

However, a free food programme for pupils and students is turning the tides. 

The Canadian High Commissioner to Cameroon, H.E Lorraine Anderson, who was on a working visit to the Far North Region, paid a visit to Government Primary School, Dimeo.

The school is one of the many benefitting from the home-grown school feeding programme funded by Canada, with the implementation of the World Food Program, WFP.

"Since the free school meals were introduced, absenteeism in school has been a thing of the Past,"Konaï said.

At the Minawao Refugee Camp in Mokolo, pregnant women and pupils have been benefiting from the food offered to them.

Officials of the WFP say it is thanks to funding from partners like the High Commission of Canada in Cameroon that they are able to maintain pupils in schools.

"To feed these children, we make use of our local cereals, thereby ensuring that farmers benefit too. For the past six years, we have benefitted close to 10 million dollars (over 6 billion FCFA) from the Canadian Embassy. We are grateful for that support," Aboubacar Guindou, Deputy Country Director of WFP, told The Guardian Post.

The High Commissioner of Canada to Cameroon said: "Canada has provided funding for humanitarian assistance in this Region. I am happy to be here”.

“This is an opportunity for me to see what is happening on the ground. So that I can help in making decisions as to where every single dollar is used. I am very happy to see that pupils are getting fed in schools," she added. 

The United Nations' World Food Program cut back on portions of food ration to pupils and refugees months back as they said they were running short of aid.

So far, more than 90 schools in the Far North Region and many in the Minawao Refugee Camp, have benefitted from the school feeding and malnutrition programme of the World Food Programme.




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