We of the National Democratic Congress are saddened and very disappointed to learn that the Ministry of Education has communicated to schools that they should not accept any more lunches from our Care Initiative Program. This information was communicated to us by several school administrators.
Earlier this month, the NDC launched the school feeding phase of the program. This provides lunches to our fifth form students islandwide, as they were brought back to school in preparation for their CSEC Exams. This phase of the Care Initiative was undertaken against the backdrop of the suspension of the school feeding program in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In keeping with our pledge to the nation to play our part in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the object of the initiative is threefold: 1) to help provide relief to parents, many of whom lost their jobs due to the pandemic; 2) to fill the gap left by the absence of the school feeding program and; 3) to remind the students that they are not alone and that we care as they prepare to sit their final examinations before exiting secondary school in this difficult period. We exist because we genuinely care about our people.
We have seen a release from the Ministry of Education issued today. For the avoidance of all doubt, we make clear that, just like we did with the free school books program while in office, we took every care, followed protocol and was diligent in delivering this program with love to our fifth form students.
First, we verified that the school feeding program was not operating in the schools where we delivered meals and in some cases, the tuck shops were also closed.
Second, we liaised with the principals and administrators of all the schools and for those schools that accepted our offer of the meals, we worked with the schools in having the children pre-order the lunches, giving them enough time to obtain parental permission. Not all schools signed on and for those who did, not all students ordered lunches.
Third, we worked with reputable caterers who, as far as we are aware, have all requisite permissions to be operating.
Fourth, we are not aware of the falsehoods the Ministry mentions in its release. Indeed, we have heard them nowhere in the public domain. We reiterate that the school feeding program is not in operation in the schools where we delivered meals.
Since starting the program on June 8th, we have delivered in excess of 430 lunches to secondary schools throughout Grenada.
Principals do have and must maintain some autonomy and independence in running their schools in collaboration with the Parent-Teachers’ Associations. We urge them to continue working with us, as together we put the interests and welfare of our children first. The Minister must not be allowed to insert her political biases so as to hurt the interests of the nation’s children.
In closing, the NDC is demanding that our government should immediately reinstate the school feeding program for the benefit of our students that are currently back in school. In the absence of this, we are committed to continue working with our principals, teachers and parents to contribute towards meeting the nutritional needs of our children — our future scholars, parents, workers and leaders.