Uganda: Children forced to quit school as food aid is cut
05 December 2008

Ugandan children, like this little boy, are having a difficult time getting to school on empty stomaches. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
“In some villages, classes are empty.”
Kitgum, 5 December 2008 Over the past three months, thousands of children have dropped out of primary school in northern Uganda due to lack of food and poor learning conditions. As reported by IRIN, statistics from the district education office showed a 6.1 percent rise in drop-out rates, many of them girls below the age of 15.

As Bai Sonkoh Mankay, head of World Food Programme (WFP) in Gulu and Amuru said, the school-feeding programme was stopped in August because Ugandan government policy provided that parents had a duty to feed their children. Instead, WFP now helps people become self-reliant by producing their own food.

However, some parents have left the camps and are only slowly beginning to grow food after having experienced war and displacement for years. Many are still unable to feed their children. Local leaders in the region expressed concern over the situation. “In some villages, classes are empty,” said Aturu Abraham from Kitgum District. “The situation has been made worse as displaced primary schools relocate back to their original places at a moment when UN food aid support to primary schools has stopped” said Robinson Obot, Gulu District education officer, where over 11.000 students dropped out of school. The problem needs to be addressed to prevent a failure of the universal primary education programme.

JRS running schools for 30,000 students

Further north, in Adjumani District, JRS was running schools for 30,000 students before repatriation to South Sudan started after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. There, the school-feeding programme, later called “food for education,” started in primary schools in 2002 and was later extended to secondary schools. “Inspite the many challenges the programme faced, it helped to improve health and performance of learners, increased attendance and enhanced active participation of children at schools,” says Lagu Angelo, JRS Adjumani Project Director. Other activities for sustainability were also supported among them vegetable growing, woodlot planting or the construction of kitchens, teacher’s houses and latrines.

Before WFP stopped their food support for schools in Adjumani District in June 2008, awareness sensitisation meetings for both, stakeholders and returnees were held to explain the reasons for the pullout which were mainly a food-shortage in the market and an increased focus on life saving activities. As Mr Angelo points out, “the drop in the enrollment of some schools in Adjumani is rather due to repatriation, individual interest or isolated cases than to a lack of school feeding.”

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