Why Kenyan parents are not buying into the free primary school milk narrative

When parents watched on TV as Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed launched the free milk programme for primary school, they were an excited lot. The programme, which was launched at the Moi Educational Centre in South B, will target 350 primary schools in Nairobi and its environs.

An estimated 200,000 pupils will benefit from the program, with Brookside set to spend Sh 12 million to feed the students daily. The CS said the programme will help in reducing the increased cases of malnutrition.

With such good news, the parents were beside themselves, regaling their children with tales of how they used to enjoy maziwa ya Nyayo, small packets of milk given to children all over the country twice a week during the former president Daniel Moi era. But their joy was short-lived when a cross-section of parents later learnt that they were actually meant to pay for the milk supposed to be taken twice or thrice depending on the school.

It all starts with notes or newsletters where parents are asked to pay between Ksh. 800 and 1500 per term for the weekly program. It is presented as an optional initiative but with the packets bearing their favourite cartoons, it is irresistible for most children.

Meanwhile, children from Meru County are getting their milk for free since the program was launched in February this year. Nyandarua County pupils are also getting the milk for free. So Nairobi schools, what gives? Our Lady of Mercy in South B and Nairobi Primary School are among the schools that have sent out the leaflets to parents.

When we posed a question via our twitter handle seeking to know how many parents had received the letter, there were quite a number of responses in the affirmative. They, however, declined to name the various schools they send their children to for fear of victimization.

Here are some comments from parents:

Ruth Mbithi: It happens, my first born’s first school we used to pay 1500 for milk every day for a whole term or 1000 thrice a week. But we have since moved him

Mercy Musyoka: We pay 2k per term

Mary Titus: We pay 1500 per term

Mary Wakonyo Ngugi if its a government school the milk is free

Maxine Blaq We either pay or carry. I prefer to carry because when I pay and I ask if milk was given I keep getting a no yet there is no refund

Riziki Emukule But also as parents ensure you vet theikk (sic) your kids will be given because nowadays there are so many chemical stuffed milk out there

Wanjiru Mungai I used to pay 2500 for it until i realized there’s no milk that they’re given just thieving from parents. We moved schools this term anyway

Janet Chepkemoi But I give them milk at home. Isn’t that enough?

Stella Kellen I pay 1000 for my niece per term. She says they take milk three times a week.
My son says they take milk every day at tea time, I think it’s included in school fees.

Kate Qui I have been getting those leaflets in my baby’s bag nashindwa ni za nini. Thanks  mmenichanua

While some parents did not seem to mind because the initiative was voluntary, others were not amused by the turn of events. Others were quick to point out that it started last year or about two years ago. Some parents told us that they managed to get out of it by claiming that their children were lactose intolerant.

“If the milk is free then let it be free for everyone and not in some schools, if the government cannot provide milk for every child then they should just do away with the program because some children go home dejected as everyone got milk except them because their parents couldn’t afford the milk at school. The price of the milk also is another unnecessary financial burden who are having to cope with tough economic times already.” Added a parent with two children in a public school who sought anonymity.

“Brookside, the company that is giving out the milk should come out clearly and clarify to parents if the milk is free or if they have to pay for it because something is definitely amiss.” They added.

We sought Brookside position on the new developments but their calls went unanswered and they did not reply to our inbox message on social media despite seeing it. The right of response still stands as we still need clarification on the matter.


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