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Education Minister fears drop in school attendance

HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, Sept. 21, 2009) – A cutback in the Marshall Islands government budget has canceled the country’s school lunch program, an action observers say will harm student attendance and classroom performance.

According to the Marshall Islands Journal, a $700,000 cutback in the ministry’s budget forced closure of the lunch program.

Education Secretary Biram Stege told the Journal that students looking for a noontime meal will be drawn off campus.

"When there is a lunch program, attendance is so much better," Stege said. "Students don’t miss class."

She said the likelihood of students seeking lunch off campus raises the question of whether they will return.

The cost of the lunch program last year was $400,000.

According to the Journal, the Marshalls government contributes less than ten percent of the $22 million annual cost of running the country’s schools. The rest of the funding comes from the U.S. Government.

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