The nu­tri­tion sce­nario

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

Nu­tri­tion plays an im­por­tant role in the life of a child right from day one. With­out proper nu­tri­tion it is dif­fi­cult for the men­tal and phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of a child. The same goes with the nu­tri­tion of a stu­dent in a school. It is of ut­most im­por­tance that a stu­dent must be well fed with proper diet in or­der to study well and to be­come wor­thy cit­i­zens.

The School Feed­ing Pro­gramme (SEF) un­der the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion which is col­lab­o­ra­tion with the World Food Pro­gramme (WFP) for the past 40 years has helped in­crease enrolment and attendance rates, re­duce the dropout rates, helped im­prove the short term nu­tri­tional sta­tus of school go­ing chil­dren be­sides en­abling gen­er­a­tion of Bhutanese stu­dents at­tain ed­u­ca­tion and re­al­ize their po­ten­tials.

As of 2014, there are 51,886 stu­dents ben­e­fit­ing from the SFP of which 33,131 stu­dents are board­ers and 18,755 are day feed­ing stu­dents.

Fol­low­ing re­cent re­ports of se­ri­ous nu­tri­ent de­fi­cient health prob­lems in three schools with SFP, the gov­ern­ment re­vised the monthly stipend from Nu.700 to Nu. 1000 per stu­dent in 2012, while in 2014 the re­vised stipend was stream­lined for use in food alone. The es­tab­lish­ment of 24 pi­lot Cen­tral Schools (CS) in the coun­try by 2015 will not only dou­ble the num­ber of stu­dents avail­ing the SFP but the chal­lenge will only con­tinue to rise in the fol­low­ing years. As WFP is sched­uled to with­draw from Bhutan by end of 2018, the SFP will need to be solely sup­ported by the Gov­ern­ment. In the con­text four years as WFP tran­si­tion to­wards its with­drawal, the gov­ern­ment will have to ex­plore sus­tain­able means to support the SFP to en­sure the ed­u­ca­tional con­ti­nu­ity and at­tain­ment of stu­dents.

A re­cent meet­ing of stake­hold­ers in­volved in the school feed­ing dis­cov­ered that an over­all pol­icy level school feed­ing is not men­tion as such in the Na­tional Poverty Re­duc­tion Strat­egy. The im­por­tance of school feed­ing is over­all rec­og­nized as ev­i­denced by the men­tion of school feed­ing in the Food and Nu­tri­tion Se­cu­rity Pol­icy, Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy and the Cab­i­net’s writ­ten in­struc­tions to strengthen the na­tional school feed­ing pro­gramme, but a com­pre­hen­sive school feed­ing pol­icy is not yet es­tab­lished. As the SFP be­comes na­tional, a sta­ble and in­de­pen­dent fund­ing source to en­sure sus­tain­abil­ity and qual­ity of the pro­gramme need to be put in place at the ear­li­est.

With the WFP sched­ule to phase out its support by the end of 2018 it will be a chal­lenge for us to feed our school go­ing chil­dren who need nu­tri­tious diet for the fu­ture well be­ing of the na­tion. As we have about four years to go it may be ap­pro­pri­ate to pon­der over this is­sue. It is al­ways be­fit­ting to start some­thing prag­matic as how to feed our own stu­dents as they are the fu­ture cit­i­zens of our na­tion.

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