CASES of children dropping out of school owing to food shortages are expected to fall drastically due to a nationwide school feeding programme being rolled out by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, community leaders in Matabeleland and Bulawayo Provinces have said.
They described the First Lady’s initiative as a timely intervention which would boost school attendance in their region which faces food challenges owing to erratic rainfall.
Crop yields are extremely low and the risk of crop failure is high once in three years.
The First Lady’s school feeding programme has already been introduced in Mashonaland East, Manicaland, Matabeleland North, South and Bulawayo provinces. It would be spread across the remaining provinces.
Amai Mnangagwa through her Angel of Hope Foundation is complementing Government efforts to ensure that all children benefit.
In an interview last Tuesday, the First Lady said it was her role to ensure that children both in urban and rural areas were well-nourished.
“We all know that the Government is doing all in its capacity to assist people in both rural and urban areas. I am not leaving behind children in urban areas because hunger affects everyone despite their physical location.
“Diseases are not selective, they affect all the children. As a mother, I will work hard to ensure that I will satisfy their nutritional requirements irrespective of where they live,” she said.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Judith Ncube said the feeding programme would go a long way in boosting the health of learners.
“It will boost the attendance rate because a healthy mind is an alert mind. We are assured of improved pass rates and attendance rate. These children are our future leaders and it is our duty to protect them,” she said.
Her Matabeleland South counterpart, Minister Abednico Ncube was equally thankful for the steps being taken by the First Lady to ensure children in his province were well nourished.
“We are grateful to Amai for what she is doing for us.
“We welcome the feeding programme because Matabeleland South is drought-prone and there are acute food challenges. Last year we did not get rainfall and so could not produce food. Even now it’s too hot and we cannot do anything,” he said.
Minister Ncube quoted Acts 20 vs 35, “By so toiling you ought to support the weak . . . It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
He praised the First Lady for her unwavering efforts to assist those in need.
Beitbridge East legislator, Cde Albert Ngulube, said the First Lady’s food programme was worthwhile.
“We are in region 5 where it does not rain. Boreholes are also dry and those into vegetable production do not realise much because of the climatic conditions.
“The First Lady is complementing work that is being done by the President through feeding programme,” he said.
The Department of Social Welfare, Cde Ngulube said, was distributing food in his area, but it was not enough.
“Social Welfare is giving us food, but this is not enough. This programme initiated by Amai teaches us that children must be given nutritious food. We do have businesspeople here and I pray that they help and develop a culture of sharing,” he said.
Cde Ngulube said the future of the country lay in the hands of young children and efforts needed to be made to ensure that they access healthy food and attend school.
Beitbridge West legislator Mrs Ruth Mavhungu Maboyi echoed similar sentiments and praised the First Lady for rolling out the school feeding programme.
“Crops do not grow well here because of food challenges. The crops we harvest are so little that they cannot be stored in granaries since at times one cannot even fill a bucket.
“We are truly grateful for this feeding programme because there is hunger here.
“Water for drinking is also a challenge. We urge the First Lady to keep on remembering us,” she said.
Mrs Maboyi said the community no longer had livestock like cattle and goats because of hunger.
She praised the First Lady for her intervention and said children were happy to enjoy meals with meat provided by the First Lady.
“You have great love which unites us all despite political affiliation.”
Amai Mnangagwa’s programme helps fulfil the Sustainable Development Goal 2, which aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.”
To sustain this initiative, Amai Mnangagwa wherever she goes, she leaves maize seed, grain, rice, cooking oil and other essential commodities for continuity of the programme.
She has been calling on businesspeople and well-wishers to come on board to ensure the continuity of the feeding programme which had immense benefits for the future.