‘Maziwa ya Nyayo’ initiative set for a revival in counties

Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang and Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii and Cooperatives PS Patrick Kilemi

Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang (second left), Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii second (right), Cooperatives PS Patrick Kilemi (right) and New KCC boss Nixon Sigei (left) during the launch of free school milk in Eldoret on May 23, 2023. 

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

For people who went to school during the era of President Daniel arap Moi, nothing beats the sweet feeling of a ringing bell announcing the arrival of "Maziwa ya Nyayo".

Most people remember with nostalgia the small packets of milk that were distributed in public schools to encourage pupils to stay in school. I

n fact, it was reported that, within the first year of the introduction of Nyayo milk, school enrolment increased by more than 23 per cent, especially in rural areas.

The school milk programme, popularly known as Maziwa ya Nyayo, was introduced in 1979 and ran for almost 20 years before fizzling out in the mid-1990s due to a lack of funding.

Nearly three decades after the programme ended, however, the reintroduction of school milk programmes by more than a dozen county governments has revived memories of the free Nyayo milk of the 1980s and 1990s, sponsored by the administration of the late Moi. Although the programme is largely being introduced for preschool children, the motive remains the same - to keep learners in school.

Counties' roll-out

Some of the counties that have introduced the school milk programme are Uasin Gishu, Mombasa, Embu, Nyandarua, Meru and Murang’a. New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (New KCC) Executive Director Nixon Sigey, who is seeking partnerships with county governments to launch the programme in the devolved units, said it is expected to improve enrolment and ensure a steady market for dairy farmers.

“At least 10 counties have expressed an interest in the project," Mr Sigey revealed.

Other counties where plans to introduce free school milk programmes are at an advanced stage include Nairobi, Nakuru, Laikipia, Kisii, Trans Nzoia, Baringo, Nandi, Meru Narok, Kajiado, Samburu, and Isiolo.

In Nairobi City County, Governor Johnson Sakaja is set to launch a school feeding programme, which will include the introduction of school milk.

"We have piloted the project in some schools and witnessed a 100 per cent increase in attendance while performance has improved by more than 60 per cent," Mr Sakaja said in a recent interview. Nairobi is partnering with the World Food Programme on the project.

Last Wednesday, the Uasin Gishu County Government launched a school milk project that will benefit 40,000 learners in public early childhood education (ECDE) centres. The initiative launched by Governor Jonathan Bii aims to provide nutritious milk twice a week to 40,000 young learners in 687 ECDE centres across the county.

Education Executive Janet Kosgey said the county government has partnered with New KCC to provide every child receive a 200ml pack twice a week at a cost of Sh60 million.

She termed alarming a recent study showing that malnutrition levels in the county are increasing at an alarming rate, with 13 per cent of learners suffering from stunted growth and malnutrition. The devolved unit hopes that the initiative will increase retention in schools and enhance the standard of education.

The Ministry of Education will allocate Sh4 billion in the 2023/2024 financial year to fund the programme.

Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, who officiated at the launch of the school milk project, revealed that the country has doubled the allocation for school feeding programmes from Sh2 billion in the current financial year to Sh4 billion in the 2023/2024 financial year.

While lauding Governor Jonathan Bii's initiative, he urged more counties to introduce such programmes to retain learners in pre-primary education.