Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) pupils in West Pokot County have benefited from free 5500 ten kilograms bags of certified compose blend porridge flour worth 10 million shillings courtesy of the County Government in bid to curb malnutrition, hunger and entice more to attend classes.
The school feeding program started three years ago targets young learners in the county so as to boost enrollment whereby every child will be served a cup of porridge meal in the morning and after classes every day.
The porridge flour is meant for 503 ECDE centers across the county.
The nutritious porridge flour has various minerals aimed at fighting malnutrition among school going children.
The county is one of the counties that has a high malnutrition rate in the country and the roll out of the program aims to address the challenges of children not attending classes because of hunger.
A study that was conducted by the Kenya demographic and health survey Kenya Demographic Health report ( KDHS) of 2014 revealed that, Malnutrition rate in the county stands at 45.9 % as many children are suffering from chronic malnutrition because of poor feeding due to food insecurity.
According to Uwezo Kenya survey of 2014, more than 60,000 children in the County who had attained the school going age but were yet to join school and the number could have increased significantly in the last three years owing to the drought that had been witnessed in many areas.
Children in far-flung areas are the worst hit with some ECDE centres earlier recording 20 per cent attendance of the total enrolled children.
The children walk long distances and hunger is among excuses parents have been using to stop them from attending school.
Speaking while flagging off the porridge flour at county headquarters, West Pokot county governor John Lonyangapuo said early childhood education forms an integral part in providing solid foundation for children in their onset years of education citing that the enriched porridge will motivate parents to take their children to school.
He said that there is hunger in the County that affects school children because of drought witnessed in the area.
“The porridge meal is blended with highly nutritive 21 mineral components to boost nutrition levels among pupils. The porridge comprises of corn, soya beans, sugar and fortifiers (vitamins and minerals.)” He said.
He added that it will cover six months and will help to increase enrollment and enhance retention level.
Prod Lonyangapuo cautioned ECDE teachers against using the flour porridge for personal gain adding that they will be accountable if any child will not be served with a cup of porridge.
“Don’t use it too fast or sell it,”he said
He said his administration would ensure the programme is allocated more funds in the next financial year.
“The first years of a child’s life set the stage for all future growth. Good nutrition plays a crucial role during formative years when there’s rapid brain development, “he said.
County executive member for education Jackson Yaralima said ECD enrolment has been low in the county because many parents value early childhood education.
“The retention has been low because parents migrate with their children looking for pasture for their livestock. Many of the pupils don’t attend classes because their parents engage them in grazing livestock.” He said.
Parents commended the initiative saying they had been hard hit by the drought and ECDE centres that offer lunch to pupils came in handy.
He said that the last planting season, crops in the area failed leading to Hunger.
“Crops withered .We don’t want parents to keep children at home because of hunger.The stunted growth is high in the County and .We want others to embrace the program .We have set up 1200 ECDE centers .We have 800 primary schools,” he said.
He called on parents in the area to take children to schools.
“We shall invest and put in more money .We have employed 710 new ECDE teachers and we want to have two teachers in every ECDE center,” he added
He cited that enrollment has increased and they target the most vulnerable children.
Enrollment in schools within the County has increased up to 120,000 ECDE learners in the County since inauguration of the program with 1200 new ECDE centres opened.
North Pokot and Pokot central lead in enrollment and this is partly due to peace along our borders.