ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Despite government’s financial constraints, the School Meals Programme as well as the Uniform Grant will be keepers.
That was the word from Minister of Finance Harold Lovell as he presented the 2012 Budget Statement yesterday.
“This administration has spent over $21 million to provide school meals and uniforms for our school children. There were no such programmes before we took office in 2004,” he said.
“We will continue to support these two programmes financially and to ensure that they benefit the children of Antigua & Barbuda.”
Since the introduction of the two programmes - National School Meals Programme in 2008, and the School Uniform Grant in 2004 – parents and guardians have grown to depend on both to help them through the tough economic times.
The National School Meals Programme began with the provision of daily hot nutritionally balanced lunches for children in 15 participating primary schools. In 2009 three more schools were added, bringing the total to 18, which is the current participating number of schools.
“Madam Speaker, 2,855 primary school children will benefit from the National School Meals Programme in 2011. Up to August 2011, some $2 million had been spent on the meals provided to the children,” the finance minister said. “We estimate that by the end of the year our precious children will receive over 400,000 meals through the school meals programme.”
Due to the effects of economic hardship, the School Uniform Grant suffered a cut this year from two free uniforms per child to one. The finance minister noted the figures for 2011 showed a steep decline in the number of parents participating and students receiving uniforms.
“A total of 36,411 vouchers were issued at a cost of $3.08 million,” he said.
“In the words of our venerable leader, ‘the School Uniform Grants for children in primary and secondary schools as well as the National School Meals Programme will never be sacrificed.’”