School feeding programmes are important for the physical, mental and psychosocial development of children between the ages of 6 and 19 in schools.
There is an estimation that 66 million school-age children all over the world go to school every day on empty stomachs.
As a result, attending classes hungry severely influences children and adolescents’ capabilities to learn, acquire knowledge and establish their full potential.
Therefore, strengthening feeding programmes in rural and urban schools should be based on the understanding of the benefits of academic performance.
Firstly, school feeding programmes benefit school performance, as they promote school attendance and reduce dropout and absenteeism rates.
A large number of children in developing countries are unable to attend school because they have no access to meals or cannot get all the meals required in a day for healthy growth and development.
As a result, children tend to stay at home because they cannot spend several hours at school on empty stomachs, which then results in poor academic performance because there is a high rate of absenteeism.
Eventually, children drop out of school, as they become discouraged by the fact that they have to spend several hours hungry.
Secondly, it improves the concentration of children in classes.
When energy levels are improved, children can concentrate better and be active in class.
This results in better performance, as children will be encouraged to strive hard for good results in school.
In most cases, children tend to be less focused and tired in class because they do not have enough energy.
Furthermore, children going to school on empty stomachs result in paying less attention and not being able to learn by acquiring knowledge.
Many children come from unfortunate households, where their parents are unemployed or there are many people living in the same house and, therefore, there is not enough food for the children to take to school for lunch.
Thirdly, it increases the results of tasks and tests completed in school.
Children receiving meals helps them to perform better in class tasks and activities, as they have enough energy for their brains to function properly.
Poor performance in school is caused by a lack of attentiveness in-class tasks.
About 60% of learners fail to complete tasks in school as a result of hunger.
Children between the ages of 6 to 14 are more vulnerable to hunger, as their bodies become very weak, causing them to be tired and sleepy in class.
Besides academics, feeding programmes help the community rise above poverty.
These programmes help keep children in school, and they are better placed to complete their education, increasing the number of children completing school.
The community will, in the long term, experience an improvement in its economy, thus rising above poverty.
Furthermore, due to poverty levels, some parents or guardians are not able to provide food to their children.
They can, however, benefit from school feeding programmes for their children, as the programme takes the burden of feeding their children off their shoulders.
Moreover, feeding programmes also help to keep children in school, instead of being on the street, begging for food.
In the final analysis, feeding programmes carefully select balanced meals to improve children’s nutrition.
Careful selection promotes children’s health and growth since malnutrition among children is a contributing cause of premature deaths.
The feeding programmes play a vital role in Namibia and have become a priority for the government due to the multiple benefits it has on our children.
The programmes have the potential to relieve hunger for orphans and vulnerable children, as well as to improve their nutrition.
It is and has always been an important strategy for addressing inequalities in education.
It promotes access and expands education opportunities to disadvantaged Namibian children.
It is, therefore, not a coincidence that this programme is embedded in various national policies and strategic plans – and has over the past years received strong political support from senior government authorities.
His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Namibia Hage Geingob, himself, has called on the programmes to be expanded to reach more disadvantaged children.
I, therefore, call on all Namibians and partners to support the ministry of education in its efforts to ensure disadvantaged children do not miss out on education.
* Petrus Autoni is a postgraduate education student at the International University of Management. This article is part of his English Proficiency Assessment.