February 7, 2019

A Minister’s Tweet Worth Rwf 142bn

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The government of Rwanda is preparing a new scheme under which more than 3 million children studying at levels from kindergarten to high school will be entitled to half-liter of milk EVERY DAY!  

The latest grand project by the central government is yet to be finalized. But a hint was delivered by education minister Dr Eugene Mutimura via a Tweet last week. He announced in Kinyarwanda that a directive would be issued soon.

Dr Mutimura also hinted that parents would be asked to cover at least some of the cost so their children can get a mandatory daily quantity of milk.

Already, all schools are by law giving lunch to all students.
In some urban areas, parents foot the entire cost of the lunch.

The government currently also supplies milk to some primary schools for kindergarten pupils.

As the country awaits details of who is responsible and how the milk will be paid for, at The Chronicles, we have run through the numbers.

With a half-liter requirement, every student will be entitled to 180 liters of milk every year.

3,297,420 children

Last year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry released a circular setting the maximum price for a liter of milk at Rwf 240 at a milk center.

These centers are government-supported locations where ordinary farmers sell their excess milk on a daily basis.

In total, every student will consume Rwf 43,200 annually.

Basing on the Rwanda Education Board (REB) 2017 statistics, Rwanda has 5,234 pupils at pre-nursery school, 220,435 for nursery school, 2,540,374 from primary school and 531,377 students attending secondary level.

If this milk-for-all program is to be funded entirely by the education ministry, it will be taking care of 3,297,420 children annually.

Dr Mutimura and his team should be ready to part with some Rwf 142,4 billion every year.

In the 2019 budget which ends in June, education was allocated Rwf 273 billion.

The public reaction to the Minister’s partial announcement may not be gauged from the more than 50 comments on his Tweet, but they show a lot of questions that need answers.

Head teachers interviewed by The Chronicles for this story had unanimous support for the initiative – some saying they have already been giving milk and other richer foods to their students. But they were keen to add that they have been able to maintain the milk and other similar programs with full support from parents.

The case of Gitega primary school

Some schools, especially where tuition is at average level, head teachers are wondering how they will confront their struggling parents to add another Rwf 43,000 on tuition.

“We are yet to have details giving us directions on how the program will work,” said Antoine Rusingizandekwe, the headmaster at EPA secondary school. “We will have the full picture when it starts.”

Rusingizandekwe said that in his school, the lunch-for-all program is paid for by parents, and the full budget also gets a supplement from the education ministry.

But it remains a huge task in some schools to implement the ‘school feeding program’ – which the central government has placed at the top of its priorities, arguing it will keep kids in school thereby improve standards. 

At Gitega primary school, they have own system. Some pupils who come from far locations are said to bring their own packed lunch.

But at 11:40am, during a general lunch break for all, those from distances closer to the school simply rush home.

The head teacher Adria Nyirankuriyinka at Gitega told The Chronicles that kindergarten pupils are given milk during their breaks.

The milk is supplied by the government.  

To confirm the information, we were granted access to handwritten and stamped milk delivery slips.

For example, on January 23, the school received 144 liters of milk for feeding 131 pupils in kindergarten.

Up until February 5, the school had not received new stock from the government delivery agency. The head teacher said they were left with less than 5 liters.

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