Report proposes free meals in school to solve child poverty
Göksel Bozkurt ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
The report says there are currently more than 10 million students in Turkey’s public schools. Providing a free school meal program could decrease students’ school expenses by 10 percent and help prevent obesity, the report says. DHA PhotoA recent study by Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University said a free meal program in Turkey’s public schools may help solve child poverty, a problem affecting 25 percent of Turkey’s children, according to OECD.
Using the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) statistics, the report said one in four children was poor in Turkey. Accordingly, Turkey was listed last among OECD countries when it comes to poverty rates among children under 18.
The ranking also reflected the school child demographic, reporting 436,614 children left primary education and started working between 1999 and 2005, with 20 percent of laboring children leaving school because they could not afford school expenses.
The report gave the example of an incident in one of the public schools in Istanbul’s Sarıyer district, where a class teacher asked the students’ parents to give milk to their children every day. As a response, one of the parents said they did not have money to do so.
According to the report, providing a free school meal program could decrease students’ school expenses by 10 percent and help prevent obesity among school children. The report also showed Turkey was the highest rated country for children aged between 11 and 15 suffering health complaints as a result of food deficiencies.
Raising girls’ attendance rates
The free meal program would also increase girls’ attendance in public schools, according to the report, which gave examples from around the world where similar initiatives have succeeded in equalizing the participation gap between girls and boys in schools.
A similar project implemented in Pakistan increased girls’ school attendance by 135 percent between 1998 and 2004, the report showed. Similarly, rates increased by 28 percent in Africa as a result of the program.
The report said there were currently more than 10 million students registered in Turkey’s state primary schools, equal to 97.4 percent of the total student population. However, the report suggested a free meal program should be implemented in every school, not only in state schools or in regions where inequality was high such as the southeastern region of Turkey or certain areas of Istanbul.
The report said there was a major economic gap among city districts but there were no variations in economic incomes among the students in one school.