Govt fails to expand school feeding plan despite $300M budget

Education Minister Nicolette Henry was on Wednesday brought under the microscope by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) when it was found that although some $300 million was requested in the 2018 Budget for students up to Grade Two to benefit from the school feeding programme, it was not expanded.
When former Education Minister Priya Manickchand took Henry to task as an increase in ‘Dietary’ provisions were made in the 2019 Budget, the Minister explained that the added amount will be allocated to now expand the breakfast and hot meal programmes.
This did not go down well with the unsatisfied former Education Minister, who argued that $2 billion from the 2018 Budget was returned to the Treasury from this Ministry although it could have been used for other important uses.
Manickchand asserted, “I did complain in the budget presentation that $2 billion had gone back and I see that the money in 2018 was not utilised. In fact, more than $200 million was not utilised to feed our nursery babies and I’m wondering which schools did not get fed or if it was determined to be enough to feed everybody.”
Manickchand went further to question why the Ministry would need an increase for this purpose in the 2019 Budget when it did not use its allocations in Budget 2018, but rather returned it.
In her Ministry’s defence, Henry said all the children in the schools which were on the programme were fed. With regard to the expansion, the Minister admitted, “The expansion however had to be curtailed because that programme had to be audited and we had to wait until we got guidance from the auditors, based on what was happening, then to move forward.”
She referred to the school feeding programme as being delayed.
Meanwhile the Opposition MP questioned Minister Henry whether or not sugar workers’ children were considered when the programme was being executed to which Henry responded in the affirmative.
Manickchand highlighted that thousands of these sugar workers lost their jobs, reminding the House that many of them have since said that they cannot afford adequate meals or even send their children to school regularly.
Manickchand reiterated that money could have been spent too on uniform grants.