PETALING JAYA: The Melaka Action Group for Parents (Magpie) has questioned the wisdom of serving free breakfast to every child in primary school, saying it may be better to cater only to those who need or want it.
Magpie chairman Mak Chee Kin said the programme went against the government’s intention to tighten its purse strings and warned of logistical problems and the possibility that food would be wasted.
Speaking to FMT, he acknowledged that the programme would be good for pupils from poor families and as a means of encouraging habitual latecomers to arrive at school on time.
However, he speculated that some children would not like the food served, which would result in wastage. He said some would prefer to pack food from home and others, such as vegetarians, would reject the meals offered for dietary or religious reasons.
He also questioned whether the school canteens could handle the work load, whether teachers would be given the extra burden of monitoring the service and whether lessons would be affected.
“The education ministry needs to clarify and tackle all these concerns before implementing such a programme,” he said.
Parent Action Group for Education secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra also warned of wastage, saying not all children were used to having their breakfast between 7am and 8.30am, the period allocated for the programme.
She noted that earlier food programmes had failed because of refrigeration issues and asked whether steps were being taken to ensure only fresh food would be served.
She also asked for an assurance that there would be no element of cronyism in appointing food contractors “so that students will get value”.
About 2.7 million students from government-run and government-assisted primary schools are expected to benefit from the programme. The education ministry has yet to announce how much the programme will cost.
The ministry is working with the health and agriculture ministries as well as nutritionists to ensure that the breakfast served is nutritious.
A pilot programme is currently underway and is expected to conclude in October.