Uganda joins the rest of the world to celebrate World School Milk Day
"An empty stomach cannot stand upright" and "Now we have milk and we can concentrate in class" are some of the sentiments echoed by Ugandan children as they joined the rest of the world to celebrate World School Milk Day.
World School Milk Day is an initiative of the United Nations that was launched in 2000 to encourage the drinking of milk in schools by celebrating the health benefits of school milk programmes. In Uganda, the event was organised by SNV in partnership with Ntungamo District Local Government. The celebrations were held at Kagamba Primary School, the first rural school to provide milk to its students.
South Western Uganda is among the regions with the highest malnutrition rates currently registered at 42%. Despite being the cattle corridor in Uganda with high volumes of milk traded daily, the majority of school children in South Western Uganda study on empty stomachs. School absenteeism is high as children struggle to find alternatives to abate their hunger, often in gardens and bushes where fruits grow. “An empty stomach cannot stand upright. Now we have milk and we can concentrate in class,” a jovial Aggrey Natamba the Head Prefect of Kagamba Primary School had to say when asked about the school milk programme. Improvement in enrolment was also highlighted by the Head Teacher of Kagamba Primary School Mr. Kyotaby Cipra in his welcome remarks to the stakeholders who turned up for the celebrations. “I am proud of our parents who have embraced this initiative, making us the first school to adopt school milk feeding in the district. Since we started giving our children milk in June this year, our enrolment has increased from 700 pupils to 850. Student absenteeism has reduced drastically and children are now stable and attentive in class, which has led to an improvement in their performance. This year we had 27 students passing in aggregate I and 44 in aggregate II in the primary seven mock exams,” Mr Kyotaby added.
The school milk programme is an initiative of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands funded project, The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise Project (TIDE) being implemented by SNV Uganda. One of the goals of the project is to improve the nutrition status of pupils through promotion of school milk in the six project districts (Kiruhura, Mbarara, Sheema, Isingiro, Bushenyi and Ntungamo). Consumption of milk provides the human body with eight essential nutrients (energy, carbohydrate, fat, water, vitamins, minerals, protein and minor biological protein and enzymes) that are essential for growth and development. Milk is thus an ideal choice because it is well-balanced and readily available in South Western Uganda.
Officiating at the launch of the celebrations the Acting Ambassador and Head of Development Cooperation at the Netherlands Embassy Hans Peter Van der Woude applauded the initiative to raise awareness about the importance of milk in the growth and development of children. “The Netherlands Embassy in Uganda and the Netherlands Government is invested in supporting the economic development of Uganda. As one of the most youthful nations in the world, investing in the growth and development of children is paramount. I am happy that parents are supportive of the school milk programme because this is the most sustainable way of ensuring that the children take milk in school,” Woude said.
On average a school year has 246 days. If each child consumes half a litre of milk every school day, a child’s yearly milk consumption will be 123 litres. If each litre of milk is sold at 800 Uganda shillings, each parent will contribute 98,400 shillings per year (32,800 UGX per term) towards their child’s growth and development. This investment not only promotes growth and cognitive development in children but boosts children’s in-class concentration and subsequently their overall academic performance. The TIDE project has launched a campaign to have all schools in the six districts providing milk to all school going children. In the last six months, the project has mobilised 90 schools to start providing milk to their children reaching an estimated 45,000 school going children. Provision of school milk is parent led with parents contributing towards the provision of milk either in cash or in kind. Provision of milk in schools will also promote the development of the dairy sector by increasing milk sales in the short term and milk demand and market in the long term.
Read more about SNV’s programmes in Uganda.