By By Sofia Tillo
Published October 5, 2010
Cape Verde has been diligently working to eliminate malnutrition and hunger. The Cape Verde authorities have in October 2010 taken over the national school feeding programme from the World Food Programme that has worked in the country for more than three decades,
helping create a sustainable programme for national food security that incorporates a universal free school meal initiative. The country is now responsible for both the management and financing of the policy. The focus on nutrition is part of Cape Verde’s intent on achieving all the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Cape Verde Ambassador to the USA, Fatima Veiga, says, “We Cape Verdeans know that to succeed in tackling our development challenges we must first and foremost count on our own capabilities and efforts.”
Cape Verde has become one of the first African nations to make the transition from least developed (LDC) to middle income country (MIC), but poverty remains a national challenge; school lunches are often a Cape Verdean child’s only meal for the day.
Cape Verde’s poverty prevalence rate has dropped by almost 23% since 1989, but 26.6% of people are still considered poor. In these conditions, school feeding is not only important in the fight against hunger but it also serves as a crucial incentive for even the poorest families to continue to send their children to school. The evidence speaks for itself; despite high poverty rates, literacy has risen to 96% in just two generations. Today, 92% of Cape Verdean children attend primary school and absenteeism levels are low.
The reasons behind the success and repercussions of the school feeding programme are simple mathematics. With schools feeding each child at least 20 meals per month, a lunch every school day, the state actually finances one-third of each child’s meals per month. This represents a crucial public contribution, particularly for poorer families. The lower the proportion of its budget a family needs to spend in order to feed its children, the more it can afford to save and invest in other priorities.
As testimony to its effectiveness, the Cape Verde investment in school feeding is now going full circle. One of the common investments families make with their savings is in their children’s higher and continuing education.
“The numbers of university and higher education institutions up and running have gone up to ten. More than 16,000 youth are currently enrolled in higher education, both in Cape Verde (10,000+) and abroad (6000),” confirms Veiga.
As a result, Cape Verde is now looking to scale up its education goals beyond the MDGs and take its education system to the next level.
“Major challenges are still needed to scale up education quality standards and achieve excellence,” says Veiga. “Extension of free basic education, improvement of pre-schooling quality, and establishment of a more efficient higher education financing system that provides new and more attractive opportunities in credit accessing.”
Saying “education is an empowering tool,” Veiga adds that it “deserves the highest priority in the political agenda. In this aspect, government, all political forces, and the civil society in general coincide.”
Using schools as a social space to fight social exclusion and poverty, Cape Verde has extended the spirit of the feeding programs to new initiatives, always keeping education as a focal point.
The ambassador cited current Cape Verdean projects, such as the Programme to Reduce Poverty in Rural Areas, which she said, “supports most vulnerable populations, in particular children, elders, households led by women, handicapped, and so on. School children coming from the poorest households and families are supported with uniforms, books and transportation.”
When asked about her country’s progress and the praise Cape Verde has received during the September 2010 MDG summit at the United Nations, Veiga says, “I feel very positively about it. It’s a source of pride and inspiration.”
Nevertheless, Veiga mirrors Cape Verde’s overall resolve to develop sustainably and independently: “While it is true that no country can succeed on their own in tackling global challenges that still impact world economies, small and large, our aim is to build partnerships that will help us scale up the progresses already achieved and walk in our own shoes.”
A MediaGlobal Article