Bomet Implements Milk Feeding Program For ECDE Pupils, Boosts Enrolment, Retention.
To increase enrollment and retention, the Bomet County government has implemented a milk feeding program for students at early childhood development education (ECDE) centers.
56,000 young students, the majority of whom attend primary schools, have needs that officials want to address.
When the program began earlier this year, there were 53,000 students; however, in just six months, that number has increased by 3,000.
The statistics only include those who attend public schools and do not include those who attend private schools because their benefits have not been taken into account.
Records at the county’s department of education show that the scheme consumes Sh109 million annually.
The new Chebunyo milk cooling plant was recently constructed and outfitted by the devolved government and World Vision, but it has not yet begun operations, contrary to the county’s initial expectations.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KBS), the Kenya Dairy Board, and other governmental organizations had not yet given the facility’s owner, the Chebunyo cooperative society, the go-ahead to begin operations.
Because the learners are fed twice a week as part of the program, the county has temporarily hired the New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) to package and supply it.
The program takes inspiration from the Nyayo milk offered during President Daniel Moi’s Kanu administration, which was well-liked by schoolchildren.
Because of its widespread use, some students in the 1980s would only attend class when milk was available and would skip class when there was a shortage.
“We are seeking to address not only the issues of enrolment and retention but also the nutrition of the children who come from diverse backgrounds.”
According to Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok, malnutrition is a significant problem in some areas of the county.
In the six months since the program’s launch, according to Prof. Barchok, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of students attending classes.
To ensure the program’s success and sustainability, Prof. Barchok said, the county seeking partnerships with a variety of institutions and donors, including Education International.
The milk will be delivered to schools in the five sub-counties of Bomet East, Bomet Central, Konoin, Chepalungu, and Sotik by about 200 boda-boda riders.
The feeding program will also support the dairy industry in the county. According to Prof. Barchok, the majority of the milk produced in Bomet is sold to neighboring counties in its raw form.
According to the 2010 Constitution, funding for basic and higher education is provided by the national government, while responsibility for early childhood education is devolved.
According to acting County Secretary Simon Langat, the head of education at Bomet, 315 ECDE centers have been built, 75 are expected to be finished soon, and many more are in various stages of implementation.
In the county, there are 1,221 ECDE centers, some of which operate out of deteriorating buildings that the local government is trying to phase out.
Because they haven’t been paid for the work they performed, some contractors haven’t given the county the facilities.
Before the end of the current fiscal year, the county treasury has promised to pay off any outstanding debts to contractors.
“This is a noble program that should be supported by all stakeholders as it lays a good education and healthy foundation for learners in the region,” said Richard Chebusit, chairman of the ECDE teachers’ association in the county.
Richard Chebusit says positive results have already been seen, so it will undoubtedly improve transition and retention.
In order for ECDE teachers to provide better services in line with rising enrollment, according to Mr. Chebusit, who is also a member of the Knut branch executive committee, the county should improve employment terms.
“As we focus on the pupils and improving their learning environment, the county government should also improve the welfare of the teachers. The rise in enrolment has provided challenges to the teachers with the increased workload,” he said.
According to Kembu Ward Rep. Joseph Kelong, the education committee’s chair, there was a positive response from parents to the building of new ECDE centers and the implementation of the milk program.
According to Mr. Kellong, a former education officer, it was common for parents to enroll over-age learners in ECDE centers due to their unwillingness to provide them with an education.
“But what we have seen in the past few months is a situation where some are seeking to enroll underage children,” said Mr. Kellong.
Despite the fact that it sets students up for success, early childhood education has long been the area of education that has received the least attention.
Children were occasionally taught under trees and improvised structures, putting their safety and health at risk.
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However, as devolution took hold and power began to be distributed and managed locally, this began to change. As a result, through the public participation process, communities have a significant say in the projects.
Many counties have increased the number of ECDE teachers and hired them on a permanent basis with pension benefits; those over 45 were hired under contracts.
With the retirement age set at 60, a person over 45 cannot be employed with long-term, pensionable terms.
According to the teachers’ union Knut, ECDE teachers are hired as pre-school assistants, so they should be covered by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), and their terms should be improved.