While malnutrition has become a chronic problem in Tanzania, policy makers have been urged to disseminate nutrition knowledge to pupils in school to combat the problem.
The consequences of malnutrition should be a significant concern in Tanzania, where 34 per cent or 3.3 million children under 5 years suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting or low height-for-age) and 58 per cent or 5.6 million suffer from anemia, according to the most recent Demographic and Health Survey (DHS).
However it has been revealed that most government schools do not provide meals to their pupils during the day, something which not only affects their nutrition but also affects their academic performance.
According to Twaweza report of 2015, Geita region is among seven regions with poor attendance in schools in which only 24 per cent of its schools provide food to their students.
On the other hand, Kilimanjaro region leads in providing food in schools, with 75 percentage points. Both public and private schools provide food to their students.
Speaking to Success recently, academic education officer, Kaitila Mwafimbo, agrees with the situation, saying they encourage communities to participate in feeding students.
“Food provision in schools is not sustainable, it happens during harvesting seasons. Most rural schools have farms like maize, potatoes and millet. So after harvest season ends food is not provided in schools, until next season,” says Mwafimbo.
However he says that, schools which provide food during the whole calendar year are private schools.
Weakness on the education curriculum
Apart from just food provision in schools, a study done by the Agricultural Non-State Actors Forum (Ansaf) recently, revealed that the education curriculum for primary schools has some weakness when it comes to the topic of nutrition.
The study was conducted in a sample of five schools, three in Mkuranga district and two schools in Gairo District in Morogoro in which 12 teachers and 30 students were interviewed.
Presenting the findings of the study recently in Dar es Salaam, Professor Kalapunja Osaki says some 2005 contents in science subjects, including; growing, cooking, and other contents, were moved to vocational skills, something he says reduces practicability for students.
“Teaching was mainly didactical and theoretical, not practical, poor coverage on land issues, gender roles in food production, preparation and serving. Also the curriculum was congested in lots of content, while the time was limited,” he adds, “Also there were inadequate teachers in orientation and training, insufficient resources, books, teaching media and technology.”
He further says that, while teachers report a clear understanding of nutrition and regular consumption of balanced diet, most students say they get balanced diet at home; not school.
Professor Osaki says teachers recommended that the idea of balanced diet and its selection should be taught in science subjects.
They also recommend that growth and production of food crops as well as preparation and cooking can be taught in vocational skills subject.
“They recommended that prevention of malnutrition (under and over nutrition) should be taught in science subjects and more focus on nutrition education including knowledge of farming and of rearing livestock to meet nutritional requirements of families and communities,” he says.
“Nutrition education is now a broader, cross-cutting subject that includes how to source, how to grow and care, how to prepare and manage meals for a family or a community, it needs to be related to gender roles including: land management, crop selection and growing, preparing and feeding the community with the right foods,” he adds.
Apart from Ansaf study, Dr Kiddo Mtunda and Lembris Laizer from Fast-tracking the Access to Popular and Improved Varieties of Root Crops by Smallholder Farmers (SHFs) project, explain the importance of using rural school children for fast-tracking the dissemination of Improved varieties.