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Feeding the multitudes - education ministry to feed 125,000 children daily

Published:Friday | August 21, 2015 | 2:21 PM

Thirty per cent of children attending early-childhood institutions across Jamaica go to school hungry, a situation which the Ministry of Education says it will be seeking to address in the coming school year.

Speaking at a back-to-school fair hosted by the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites announced that his ministry would be introducing a national feeding programme for students at the early-childhood level.

"Starting September and continuing during this academic year, Government will be providing breakfast and lunch for 125,000 early-childhood students every single day," he said

Thwaites, however, noted that parents still have a responsibility to feed their children.

"While we do that at tremendous expense to the taxpayer, it is not really the responsibility of Government to feed our children. It is our responsibility as parents, and some of us make the mistake of thinking that the bling sneakers and the bashment school bag and the pretty hairstyle ... are more important than the basics," he added.

special-needs students

"Parents, make sure the nutrition for the children is taken care of as well. We know that 30 per cent of our early-childhood cohort go to school hungry every day, and we are not blaming anybody. We are just trying to help, but Cheese-trix and bag juice can't cut it. It can't help your child at a time when their brain is developing and their personality is being formed."

Thwaites also announced that additional centres would be established to cater to early-childhood students with special needs.

"This year, since we know that many of our children fall on the spectrum of special needs, we will be rolling out diagnostic and treatment centres especially designed for the children in the early-childhood sector," he announced.

The diagnostic centres are to be set up in May Pen, Mandeville, Montego Bay, St Ann's Bay, Port Antonio, and Savanna-la-Mar. Thwaites urged parents to make use of the diagnostics centres once they realise that there is a problem with their children.

The ECC has said that the back-to-school fair would be an annual event and forms part of its five-year strategic communication plan. It is hoped that the fair will bring awareness to parents, operators of day-care centres, basic schools, and infant schools about the importance of ensuring that the needs of children at the early-childhood level are met in these critical areas.