A PROGRAMME to provide daily meals for schoolchildren in communities within the Bonsaaso Millennium Villages Project (MVP) in the Amansie West District is making tremendous strides.
Known as the MVP school meals programme, it started on pilot basis in three schools in 2007 and now covers all the 27 primary schools in the Bonsaaso cluster with about 8,481 pupils benefiting from it.
The major objective of the MVP school meals programme is to support communities and schools to provide low cost, nutritious meals for pupils on sustainable basis with the view to improving enrolment and retention as well as the health of pupils.
Children are given meals provided by the MVP with support from the communities who provide inputs like firewood and water.
Besides, mothers of the schoolchildren occasionally cook the food free-of-charge for the pupils.
As a result of the success chalked up by the programme, the management of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GFSP) has decided to model its activities along the lines of the MVP school meals programme.
Consequently, officials of the GSFP and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development have paid a day’s visit to the Amansie West District to get first hand information about the MVP programme.
The MVP school meals programme falls under the Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3, which aim at ensuring improved enrolment and retention of both boys and girls in schools in the cluster of villages, eliminate gender disparity in schools, and ensure quality education for all children.
Briefing his guests, the Cluster Manager of the Bonsaaso MVP, Mr Samuel Afram, said the World Food Programme had donated various food items to facilitate the operation of the school meals programme.
He stressed the importance of education in reducing poverty in the cluster and said every effort would be made to improve the school meals programme.
“Today many of the children are in the classrooms because of the school meals programme and everything must be done to sustain the programme even after the end of the MVP,” Mr Afram stated.
Started in 2006, the MVP is a bottom-up all comprehensive rural development initiative aimed at reducing poverty in the beneficiary communities. In Ghana, the MVP is located at Bonsaaso in the Amansie West District.
Partners of the MVP include the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Earth Institute at Columbia University, New York, Government of Japan and the Millennium Promise.
Mr Afram said school infrastructure in the Bonsaaso cluster had improved tremendously under the MVP. From an initial number of just 71 classrooms in good condition in 2006, the number increased to 99 in 2009.
Trained teachers population has also appreciated from 17 to 75 while scholarships jumped from zero to 29 with support for teachers on training also increasing from zero to 29 within the same period.
Mr Afram further stated that CARE International, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) made a donation of 175 bicycles to some communities in the cluster, namely Bonsaaso, Apenimadi, Akyerekyerekrom, Adagya and Takorase to facilitate the movement of pupils who commute more than three kilometres to schools.
The National Co-ordinator of the GSFP, Mr S.P. Adamu, commended the management of the MVP for working hard to improve the school meals programme.
He stated that the programme would help develop agriculture in the area because the food items for the meals were purchased locally.
Mr Adamu said “I have seen that the GSFP can learn a lot from the MVP programme while the programme can also take something from us.”
He emphasised that the GSFP was not just to feed the people, but also to promote agricultural development.
Mr Adamu, however, said not much had been achieved in getting the best for farmers, stressing that efforts were being made to put things in order.
The Ashanti Regional Co-ordinating Director, Mr S.O. Kusi-Appiah, said the Regional Co-ordinating Council was making efforts to incorporate some of the best practices of the MVP in the development planning strategies of the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies in the region.
He said poverty in the rural areas could be minimised with laudable programmes like the MVP school meals programme.
At various forums organised in the communities visited, the residents commended the cluster manager and his team for the wonderful work being done to get many children to school, and expressed the hope that the programme would be sustained.