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Právo: School lunch subsidies granted to 4,500 children

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Prague, Dec 19 (CTK) – The health condition, school attendance and results of more than 4500 poor children from 890 Czech elementary schools improved after their lunches started to be subsidised within an Education Ministry programme carried out by nonprofit organisations, daily Pravo writes yesterday.
“We have found out together with the teachers that the children’s school attendance and school results improved, that they are more active not only in class but also in their peer groups. They become more self-confident, which positively influences their parents,” Jana Skopova, from the Women for Women NGO that arranged the subsidised lunches for most of the children or 3700 of them.
She said the subsidy is granted to parents who take good care of their children, try to improve their bad social situation and communicate with the school.
Skopova said some poor families lived in remote areas and the parents even did not have money to pay the bus fee for the children.
Some parents did not send their children to school because they were ashamed that they did not have money to pay for the lunch, she said.
Thanks to the subsidised lunches, the children were in a better physical and psychological condition and they were able to pay more attention in the afternoon classes.
Skopova said 60 percent of the poor children who joined the programme were from families of single mothers, 11 percent were raised by single fathers. A small part of the children were raised by their grandparents or aunts and uncles.
Some complete families faced serious financial problems as the mother was on maternity leave and the father had to be treated in hospital for some time or he had an accident and was on disability pension, Skopova said.
Women for Women offers the lunch subsidy programme through regional organisations and it cooperates only with schools that show interest in it. However, some other NGOs offered the programme to schools that rejected it.
“(Some schools) considered it odd that one group of children would be granted such support. But it should make no difference to them whether the lunch is paid by the parents or a NGO,” said Helena Balabanova, head of the Jekhetane association based in Ostrava, north Moravia.
The subsidy cannot be granted without the consent of the head teacher.
Balabanova said one school even joined the programme, but did not want to continue with it.
Some NGOs use money from the Education Ministry, while others pay the subsidies from different sources. In the former case, the family must prove that the child does not take part in paid school activities such as a skiing course or swimming lessons or that the child cannot buy school aids that are not available for free. Moreover, the head teacher must offer the family the possibility of paying a reduced fee for the lunch.
The ministry has earmarked 30 million crowns for the lunch subsidy programme at elementary schools for next year, Pravo writes.
($1=25.882 crowns)

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