A senior government official yesterday said the Kingdom’s school meals programme has helped increase student enrolment rates and reduce dropouts.
Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron yesterday said the school meals programme was first implemented two decades ago by the ministry, the World Food Programme and other development partners.
He said it has helped increase enrolment and completion rates while reducing the number of dropouts.
“The school meals programme…also helps students to grow better, be healthy and learn well,” Mr Naron said during his speech at the opening of the Global Child Nutrition Forum in Siem Reap province.
He said the programme has helped increase enrolment rates from 80 percent in 2014 to 99 percent today.
Mr Naron noted it has reduced dropout rates from eight percent to six percent. Completion rates also increased from 76 percent to 88 percent.
“The ministry will continue to cooperate with the WFP to implement this programme continuously despite the ministry already taking some schools to implement the programme on its own,” he said. “We will further strengthen the capacity to train our education officials on the implementation of this programme.”
Finance Minister Aun Pornmoniroth in the forum said nutrition is crucial to human development, especially for the first 1,000 days of infancy.
“We all agreed that nutrition remains as a sophisticated and cross-sector related issue and requires a robust coordination mechanism and active participation from relevant stakeholders,” Mr Pornmoniroth said. “Our goal is…to seek an appropriate mechanism to ensure that this programme is able to get rid of short-term hunger for children and to provide additional nutrition to encourage their class punctuality, reduce their absenteeism, improve their classroom performance, reduce dropout rates and increase the overall rate of elementary school completion.”
Valerie Guarnieri, assistant executive director of WFP, yesterday said the organisation will continue to cooperate with the government to implement the school meals programme until the government can independently do it.
“The school [meals] programme is not just about funding, but also the development of policy and providing support to institutions as well as to use the funding on the right target,” Ms Guarnieri said. “Therefore, the WFP is ready to participate with the Cambodian government to continue this work and find additional funding sources to assist in this work until Cambodia can manage the work by themselves.”
The Education Ministry in a press release yesterday said in the 2018-2019 academic year, the government and its development partners were able to implement the school meals programme in 1,167 primary schools in eight provinces.
It said it was able to regularly provide breakfast to 260,000 children.
The ministry said this year the programme with additional government funding was able to be expanded to six more provinces, benefiting an additional 50,000 children from 205 primary schools.