Parliament has once again examined the problem of child rights including school feeding and street children, blaming it on parenting but also this time around seeking a new way of addressing these social issues in Rwanda today.During the presentation of a review of the 2021 report on the state of child rights in the country done by the parliament committee for Unity, Human rights and Fight against genocide, the committee showed that some policy aspects are being implemented but many still lacking or lagging.
Committee Chairperson, MP Veneranda Nyirahirwa said that this is because the child rights policy needs to be revisited and updated so that it can address the current issues.
The committee was tasked to table some of the issues with the ministries of Justice, Gender and Family promotion, Education, Health, Local government, Agriculture and the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR).
In some of the questions asked, the committee wanted to know why there are many orphaned children on streets, how their rights are respected, and why 7.8% drop out in primary and 8.2% in secondary and how entertainment and sporting activities are implemented in schools.
To know why there are still child mortality rates at birth, stunting and why children are not sufficiently fed in school, despite existing policies, infrastructure and funding.The findings
The committee found that despite an increase in agriculture and livestock output (2017 and 2020) there were issues of stunting- which is now at 33% and only reduced by 5% against the 18% target by 2024, lack of proper feeding for children in schools in their respective areas.
Committee findings on Agriculture showed milk production increased 14%, eggs by 11%, fish by 36% and meat by 15% while food crops like maize increased 32%, Irish potatoes 27%, Soya 8%, Sorghum 29%, Rice 5% and cassava 31%.
With this disconnection, the parliament report attributed the gaps of poor feeding to poverty, ignorance, limited land, lack of domestic animals and effects of climate change in the agro pastoral sector.
On this, MPs debated on reasons for the disconnection and suggested that school feeding programs have to start focusing on supplying food that is locally grown in each district or region.
“We suggest that schools should start purchasing locally produced food from nearby cooperatives instead of going to buy rice from afar yet farmers’ cooperatives incur losses due to lack of markets,” said MP Nyirahirwa.
The MP suggested that this should limit school to cooking only one kind of a meal but at least it should be the immediate starting point where all parties can benefit.
However, MP Mukabunani Christine improved the suggestion saying that in order to avoid having only one meal prepared throughout the school year.
“I think districts should be able to trade or exchange food crops with each other so that if one has Irish potatoes they can get maize from the other,” she said.
Since nutrition is a cross cutting social welfare issue, the committee report disclosed that its implementation is above one ministry (Health) and thus a need to find a collaboration platform engaging ministries of Local Government, Gender and Family Promotion and Agriculture.
The committee also found out that the problem of street children was eminent and school drop outs increasing despite construction of classrooms (primary and secondary) to address congestion issues, recruiting teachers and finding homes for former street children (in which 3,335 children have since 2011 found homes and only 447 in four remaining orphanages.
Among the recommendations to be considered, the committee resolved on giving the involved ministries a six month timeline (effectively) to present to the Chamber of Deputies their practical plans of addressing the above issues.