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Stakeholders Task African Govts On Daily School Meals For Children

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Stakeholders have urged Heads of State and Government in Africa to scale up the provision of free school meals inspite of economic challenges.

They spoke on a sideline at the ongoing African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Annual Meetings in Nairobi.

The theme is “Creating Fiscal Space for School Meals: Towards Agenda 2063, SDGs and Human Capital Development”.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Rockefeller Foundation organised the event in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and the World Food Programme,

It focused on how countries could scale up the provision of free school meals to help meet the sustainable development goals and aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

The agenda for 2063 is termed the “Africa We Want.”

The AfDB President, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, said there was a link between hunger and the development of grey matter.

Adesina, represented by his Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industry, Dr Martin Fregene, said freedom from hunger was a human right.

He said that when children had good meals, they would go back to school again and again, and food production created demand for farmers and secured markets for products, assisting economic growth.

According to Adesina, the universal primary education across Africa (SDG 2) initiative, which is strongly supported by the Bank Group, has made significant progress.

He said that for it to be realised, it had to be accompanied by planet-friendly, homegrown school meal programmes.

Adesina acknowledged that many African governments were grappling with the adverse economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising food inflation, and losses and damages associated with climate change-induced natural disasters, among other things.

The AfDB president said the Bank had supported healthy meals initiatives with some 100 million dollars so far.

Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, current chair of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), said, “No child today should go to school hungry.”

Therefore, he called for new and innovative ways to finance school meals to ensure that they are free for schoolchildren.

Given current economic circumstances, Kikwete called for an acceleration in the drive to achieve the SDGs through creative thinking and not falling further behind.

He reiterated that this was because school children were the guardians of Africa’s future and critical in achieving the “Africa We Want”.

Kikwete praised the recent debt swap for education deals with partners, highlighting a recently concluded agreement between France and Ivory Coast.

He said the multiplier effect every dollar spent on education, including the free meals initiative, had on overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) performances.

The stakeholders highlighted that many countries on the continent were contending with constrained fiscal space exacerbated by rising debt service costs, creating a silent debt crisis.

They said high debt service payments squeezed out spending on critical interventions that could accelerate Agenda 2063 and SDG implementation.

The stakeholders then said that free meals helped children’s cognitive capacities, increased attendance levels, improved health and nutrition and general well-being. (NAN)

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