KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — Malaysia has had a food aid programme for school students since 1979, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak reminded the education minister today.
Seemingly mocking Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s proposal to give free breakfasts to low-income students, Najib highlighted that funding for the existing food aid programme in schools was reduced under the Pakatan Harapan government.
Najib said Maszlee appeared to have overlooked the existence of the Supplementary Food Programme carried out by the latter’s own ministry.
“We give RM2.50 per person daily for peninsular Malaysia and RM3.00 per person daily for students in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.
“Maybe he is too busy with the colour of students’ school uniform that he did not realise that the PH government itself had already cut allocations for the Supplementary Food Programme in Budget 2019,” Najib wrote in a Facebook post today, seemingly alluding to the education ministry’s previous announcement regarding the change in the official colour of school shoes from white to black.
Najib said there was no need for a trip to Japan to learn about matters such as the food programme or to “Look East”, saying that more time should be spent on understanding the operations of the Education Ministry.
Malay Mail’s checks of the government’s 2019 federal estimated expenditure showed that the allocation for the Supplementary Food Programme — categorised as a special programme under the Education Ministry — has gone down from an estimated RM299,974,900 this year to RM289 million for next year.
Maszlee, who is with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on a three-day working visit to Japan, had yesterday visited an elementary school in Tokyo.
Following the school visit, he said his ministry plans to study the provision of free nutritious breakfast to children from B40 families or families in the lowest 40 per cent income group, as well as cultivate a culture of cleanliness and discipline from kindergarten up to tertiary level.
Malay Mail’s checks of the education ministry’s website showed that its Supplementary Food Programme implemented since 1979 sees the provision of additional food to poor primary school students, especially those in rural areas.
The Supplementary Food Programme only provides food aid to students from hardcore poor households where the head of the household’s income level is below the national poverty line, or for students who are disabled or study in Orang Asli or Penan schools.
Students who are in boarding schools are excluded from the scheme, which lasts up to 190 schooling days with a daily allocation of RM2.50 (peninsular Malaysia) or RM3 (Sabah, Sarawak, Labuan) per student.
The programme is aimed at improving the health, physical conditions and eating habits of poor students, as well as to increase their attendance and academic performance, the ministry’s website states.
Malay Mail’s checks of the Dewan Rakyat’s Hansard showed that then education minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid had on March 21 told Parliament that around RM250 million had been allocated for the Supplementary Food Programme involving over 400,000 students in national schools.
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