The objectives for the introduction of the school feeding program included increasing school enrolment, attendance, and retention at the primary school. To a significant degree, these objectives are being achieved as students who would have either stopped primary schooling or been truants due to hunger, especially in deprived communities are being significantly regular with their school attendance. Yet, the success of this social protection program should not stop there; it can also be used as an opportunity to make practical some of the knowledge students acquire in the classroom i.e., Develop skills like teamwork, self-organization, self-control, and self-discipline among others. It can be recognized as an extra-curricular activity and an integral part of school life for students. With this suggestion, it will be necessary to place the school feeding program under the Ministry of Education; supervised by the Ghana Education Service. The district School Health Education Program (SHEP) coordinators working closely with professional nutritionists/dieticians from the Ministry of Health should be trained and equipped to design programs for the schools to follow in implementing the school feeding program. Caterers/cooks will surely be employed but the menu should be planned by the assigned district nutritionist/dietician. The work of the caterers/cooks should be strictly to cook and deliver the food at the doorsteps of the various classes. Serving school lunch should be handled by the students and class teachers.
In Japan, even first-grade students are given the opportunity to organize their classrooms and serve school lunch among themselves. They do this with the supervision of the teacher. The class is in lunch groups. The group in charge on a particular day, will go for the food and serve it. They can serve the food almost equally among themselves. Before having lunch, the students arrange the classroom for a lunch setting and do some washing of hands and cleaning. As the lunch group on duty dishes out the meals, their classmates pass by in a queue with their trays to receive their food. With this, the caterers` work before lunch ends with making the food ready. Sometimes they deliver the food at the doorsteps of the class and sometimes, the students go for the food from the kitchen to their various classrooms.
Students are not passive during school lunch. They do not just line up in front of the caterer with their bowls and plates in their hands to collect their food and sit anywhere in the school to eat. Their involvement helps them to learn and develop their non-cognitive skills and appreciate and embrace both individual and collective responsibilities. As they are actively involved in the activity, they learn time management skills since the entire process is well timed from pre-lunch, lunchtime, and post-lunch cleaning. They also learn personal hygiene, working collaboratively, respect for each other, generosity, fairness, self-organization, etiquette, and social skills among others in a real-life situation. It affords the teachers the opportunity to assess students` behavior.
It is sad that even in the senior high schools in Ghana, some seniors would want to take advantage of their seniority to cheat their `table members` at dining. But probably if students are made to assume the collective responsibility for sharing `limited` available resources like school lunch from primary school, some desirable attitudes, and values like fairness and generosity can be cultivated which students can carry along in life.
The practice of teachers and students taking full responsibility for serving school lunch gives teachers and parents the opportunity to consciously monitor the eating and other habits of the students. It should not be about students waiting for caterers to come and serve them but making students responsible and developing their self-reliance and interdependence. At that early stage of the academic ladder, the students can learn a lot of life and social skills with the school feeding program.
Concerns may be raised with regard to the quality of food and the class environment and conditions in some Ghanaian schools to allow for such practice. Of course, the Japanese model may not necessarily be copied wholesale, but the salient features and practices can be adopted and adapted. The Ghana Education Service can design a school lunch schedule and program to best suit the Ghanaian condition. Already, the school feeding program has its own challenges especially when it comes to financing it. But these challenges should not impede the positive impact the school feeding program can make in developing the non-cognitive skills of students. A lot can be done with the school feeding program to help students with their learning and socialization. With proper deliberation, consideration, and planning, there may be other potential learning opportunities to be discovered with regard to the school feeding program.