Breakfast, midday meals and academic achievement in rural primary schools in Uganda: implications for education and school health policy

  • Hedwig Acham Makerere University
  • Joyce K. Kikafunda
  • Marian K. Malde
  • Wilna H. Oldewage-Theron
  • AbdulKadir A. Egal
Keywords: Human Nutrition, Cognitive function


Background: Underachievement in schools is a global problem and is especially prevalent in developing countries. Indicators of educational performance show that Uganda has done remarkably well on education access-related targets since the introduction of universal primary education in 1997. However, educational outcomes remain disappointing. The absence of school feeding schemes, one of the leading causes of scholastic underachievement, has not been given attention by the Ugandan authorities. Instead, as a national policy, parents are expected to provide meals even though many, especially in the rural areas, cannot afford to provide even the minimal daily bowl of maize porridge. Objective: To assess and demonstrate the effect of breakfast and midday meal consumption on academic achievement of schoolchildren. Design, Materials and Methods: We assessed household characteristics, feeding patterns and academic achievement of 645 schoolchildren (aged 9-15 years) in Kumi district, eastern Uganda, in 2006-2007, using a modified cluster sampling design which involved only grade 1 schools (34 in total) and pupils of grade four. Household questionnaires and school records were used to collect information on socio-demographic factors, feeding patterns and school attendance. Academic achievement was assessed using unstandardized techniques, specifically designed for this study. Results: Underachievement (the proportion below a score of 120.0 points) was high (68.4%); in addition, significantly higher achievement and better feeding patterns were observed among children from the less poor households (p <0.05). Achievement was significantly associated with consumption of breakfast and a midday meal, particularly for boys (p <0.05), and a greater likelihood of scoring well was observed for better nourished children (all OR values >1.0). Conclusion: We observed that underachievement was relatively high; inadequate patterns of meal consumption, particularly for the most poor, significantly higher scores among children from ‘less poor’ households and a significant association between academic achievement and breakfast and midday meal consumption.

Keywords: academic achievement; primary schools; Uganda; education; school health policy

(Published: 14 February 2012)

Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2012. 56 11217 - DOI: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.11217


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Author Biography

Hedwig Acham, Makerere University

Hedwig Acham is a lecturer of nutrition, in the Department of Science, Technology and Vocational Education, Makerere University. She received her doctorate in Nutrition from Makerere University in January, 2011. Her recent publications include 'Nutritional and health status of school children in rural uganda (has just been accepted for publication), Iron and zinc contents of selected foods in the diet of school children in Kumi district, Uganda ((Sept, 2011).

Her research interests include school health and nutrition. She is currently completing her post doctoral training at the Centre of Sustainable Livelihoods, Vaal University of Technology, South Africa.

Areas of specialisation: Nutrition science/ Nutrition Education/ Community nutrition

How to Cite
Acham H., Kikafunda J. K., Malde M. K., Oldewage-Theron W. H., & Egal A. A. (2012). Breakfast, midday meals and academic achievement in rural primary schools in Uganda: implications for education and school health policy. Food & Nutrition Research.
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