Pupils in Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools in Kabarole district are missing classes due to lack of packed lunch. At Karangura Primary School in Karangura Sub County, Francis Baluku, the headmaster says that since the beginning of the term more than 200 pupils donâ€™t attend classes in the afternoon, because they havenâ€™t eaten food and canâ€™t study on empty stomachs.
Under the UPE programme, parents still think government must provide free lunch in addition to the free education. However, the government insists that parents whose children attend the UPE schools must pack lunch for them.
At Karangura Primary School in Karangura Sub County, Francis Baluku, the headmaster says that since the beginning of the term more than 200 pupils don’t attend classes in the afternoon, because they haven’t eaten food and can’t study on empty stomachs.
Baluku says that for the school with a population of 875 pupils, the government remits only 1,700 shillings per pupil every three months. He says that the fee does not include lunch and the money is spent on the purchase of scholastic materials.
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At Karago Primary School with an enrollment of 890 pupils, Godfrey Musana, the deputy head teacher says that only 100 pack food. He says children without packed food resort to playing at lunch and don’t return to class. Musana says some of the children resort to casual work or return their homes in search for food.
However some of the parents Uganda Radio Network spoke to argue that they are poor and can’t afford to pack food for their children.
Henry Aliganyira, a father of two says that the rising levels of poverty have left his family going without enough meals. Aliganyira, a farmer says that he only affords to provide supper for his family.
Aliganyira also states that since he and his wife are farmers, it becomes very difficult to pack lunch for the children due to lack of time, since they have to go to the garden early in the morning. Although Aliganyira admits that failure to pack lunch for his children could affect their education, he says that since UPE is free, the government should provide lunch to pupils.
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Patrick Rwakaikara, the Kabarole district education officer, says that failure by parents to pack food for their children is responsible for 60% pupil absenteeism in the district and has affected the performance of pupils in PLE. Rwakaikara says that they are encouraging parents to contribute money to enable schools prepare meals for the children.
Rwakaikara also says that they are proposing a by-law, which compels all parents to pack food for their children.