Suspension of the School Feeding Programme in the Ejura- Sekyedumase Municipality following attack on caterers is leaving many classrooms empty.
Nhyira Fm’s checks reveal 33 basic schools have lost about 40 per cent of the about 15, 000 student population within the last month.
Education authorities fear the situation could get worse unless immediate steps are taken to restore service.
The School Feeding Programme introduced in 2005 to boost enrollment and attendance as well as retain children in school has suffered set-backs.
Irregular payment of caterers, reports of poor food served for children and political manipulation are some of the setbacks hindering the smooth operations of the programme.
A mob action carried out by a group believed to be supporters of the New Patriotic Party attacked caterers on January 12, 2016.
It followed earlier warning notice to 41 caterers to stay away from providing service under the scheme, resulting in quantities of food items to go waste.
Though a 12-month contract signed on September 13, 2016 is yet to expired, the caterers have been forced to vacate their posts, awaiting a resolution.
Two months on, attendance and retention of children in basic schools have seen dwindling trends in beneficiary schools.
School authorities say many students stay outright away from school, or abandon classes as early as 10 a.m. to go search for food at home.
At Bonyon M/A Basic School, with a population of 375, only 190 have been attending regularly over the period.
Headmaster, Suuk Biimi, describes the trend as worrisome.
“We use to have over 300 pupils in our school but these days, because of the absence of the feeding programme, children we do get when I go round the classes and then I do Comparism with the former number, you see that I do get something like 180, 200, 210 thereabout. It’s not fixed,” he said.
Parents, unsatisfied by news of suspension of the programme have been questioning school authorities who have no clue.
The situation is however worse at the Hianwoanwu African Faith Basic School, one of the deprived schools which used to boast of high enrollment figures.
School authorities are compelled to embark on house visitation to encourage students to school.
Unhappy headmaster, Adams Sadick tells Nhyira News it is now a norm for classrooms to become empty after the first break as hungry pupils go out in search of food from homes.
He cited a situation where the school’s Bell Monitor returned to school at 1” 30 p.m after skipping lessons at 10 a.m.
“It has just made teaching and learning very difficult. That child is our bell boy. He left here 10: 45. He just came just about 1: 30 that the child came. I asked him why and he said the father didn’t give him money for food so he went home to prepare food to eat before he comes back to school. In effect, you could see that, the absence of school feeding has actually affected the child because his colleagues were in the classroom learning whilst he was out there.”
Almost every pupil in this school is affected, as over 80 per cent of lives here depend on the School Feeding Programme.
The situation has compelled the Member of Parliament for the area to file an emergency statement which has been admitted by the Speaker of Parliament.
Alhaji Muhammad Bawa Braimah is worried at the politicization of the programme.
One of the paragraphs of a 3-page paper he presented to parliament reads: “Mr. Speaker, in this era where successive governments are putting in place pragmatic interventions to promote educational developments any efforts aimed at derailing such interventions like the school feeding programme should be resisted.”
Meanwhile, the Coordinating Director for the assembly, Alhaji Hafiz Adam says the issue is being addressed by the Ashanti Regional Coordinating Council.