Some 12,000 school canteens in Algeria have been closed since the start of the school year leaving children with nowhere to go but on to the streets for their lunch hour.
Angry parents have said ministers are too busy with the upcoming election to care about students’ suffering. This has forced them to turn up at the school gates at lunch time to supervise and feed their children as the school goers do not have enough time to head home for lunch.
One mother, who has two primary school aged children in Douera, drops them off every morning only to go home and prepare lunch which she then takes to school, watching as her children eat it. She said she is afraid her children will get sick if they eat fast food and doesn’t want them waiting outside school unsupervised.
A father of three primary school students said he leaves work every day and rushes to buy his children lunch which they eat in his car. They then wait until the school reopens.
One fast food restaurant owner said some parents have pre-agreed meals with him to ensure their children are fed and they pay for it in advance. The children then come to his eatery every day for lunch.
“These meals cost parents additional expenses, some of them are poor, I know them well, but they have to pay 200 Algerian dinars [$1.76] a day so that their children will not be hungry,” he explained
Others have made the most of the government’s shortfall and opened up their houses as a nursery to care for children whose parents are unable to attend school at lunch time. A safe place to stay and lunch sets parents back 7,000 dinars ($62) a month.
The head of the National Parents’ Association, Ali Bin Zina, said the issue is most acute in villages where students walk seven or more kilometres a day to get to school. This means they are unable to get home for lunch and are left hungry at school as there are no nearby restaurants for them to eat in. Others suffer because their parents are unable to afford the added cost of lunch.
Bin Zina warned that this will have a negative effect on students’ ability to concentrate and therefore their performance at school.
He added that if the matter is not resolved soon parents will take to the streets to demonstrate.