School Feeding Programme: Hobbled by litany of constraints in pilot states
• N7b Spent On HGSF In Seven States In 2016
• Declining Revenue Threatens N500b Social Investment Programmes
• Enugu Wants All Public Schools Covered
• Late Payment Of Caterers, Poor Ration Hurts Scheme In Anambra
• Osun Introduces Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato To Boost Scheme
• Thrifty Kaduna Abandons Feeding Of Students
• Lagos Wary Of Hefty Extra Baggage
• Oyo-Partial Implementation
When the people in 2015 elected President Muhammadu Buhari, and his supposed change agents in the All Progressives Congress (APC), they did so against the background of countless promises.
The scramble for votes put politicians in the frame to lob all manner of promises at the electorate, without detailed explanations about the objectives, impact and cost implications of these ambitious programmes. The APC is no different as it did proposed several pogrammes at that time.
As expected in those heady days of the campaign, the partisans adopted the well-worn strategy of out-promising the other side. The consequence of the sweet-sounding campaign rhetoric was that it created a basis for unrealistic expectations in terms of timeframe, substance and cost implications of what the politicians could actually deliver.
Added to this was the fact that the character of the conversation on the campaign trail was shallow and bereft of rigour. It was therefore just sufficient for the political gladiators to say they would do something, and simply walk away without answering the hard questions about what it would take to bring their proposals to fruition. The framework for democratic accountability in the shape of clear-headed scrutiny of vague proposals by politicians was practically non-existent. These many contradictions notwithstanding, a good number of the promises made by the then candidate Buhari, and his party men, took a life of their own. Those promises became signature issues around which citizens were determined to rate the performance of the president and his team.
Ironically, the president’s image managers who recently concerted their efforts to provide a narrative of how their principal has fared in delivering good governance, seemed hesitant to discuss specifics. Their broad narrative is that two years is not an appropriate timeframe to rate an administration, which has a tenure of four years to run.
In the eyes of Nigerians, however, the time is ripe to give an interim verdict on the broth, which the APC cooks have been preparing for the last two years. On May 29, and up till now, citizens have been busy comparing the menu APC promised, while contrasting it with what has been served thus far. As the administration marks the milestone of two years in the saddle, the social investments promised, including the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme, Conditional Cash Transfers, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Scheme (GEEP) and the flagship N-Power programme, were conceptualised as stop-gap measures to address extreme poverty and youth unemployment.
The administration’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) was anchored on the notion that ownership, especially as it relates to benefit from the nation’s financial resources, squarely belongs to the people. This symbolic step towards involving citizens in the beneficial ownership of national wealth, met with the approval of all well-meaning actors in the governance process. The logic of that affirmation found expression in the repudiation of several officials in past regimes, who exhibited an unchecked penchant for privatising the commonwealth.
The poser therefore was that if a few public officials in the past government could convert trillions of naira from the national till for private use, it would not be tenable to object to the move towards empowering poor and vulnerable citizens with a substantial chunk of national resources.
In 2016 for instance, N500b out of the N6 trillion national budget was devoted to social protection scheme put forward by the Buhari administration. It was therefore the case that while there were obvious reservations about the sustainability, and the modalities for the actual governance of the SIP, the argument about the desirability of the intervention, was decisively settled on the side of the Nigerian people. But as if to show that altruistic intentions alone will not take care of everything, recent stories about the governance of the social investments, suggest the need for a strategic re-evaluation of the modalities for their delivery.
The HGSF programme, for instance, has been experiencing serious challenges across the states where implementation has since got underway. These challenges have led to the halting of the programme in some states in order to clarify funding and implementation issues.
This is the case in Kaduna State, for instance, where Governor Nasir el-Rufai wisely decided to stop the programme in order to stock take. What this shows is that good intentions alone are not enough; those altruistic intentions have to be backed up with hardnosed strategies for implementation, accountability and to ensure the programmes meet citizens’ high expectations.
While hiccups in the programme are not unexpected, stakeholders were expectant that the scheme would be efficiently governed to achieve the desired results in terms of improving learning outcomes. There is also the aspect of ensuring the programme meets with all transparency standards, especially at a time when the governance debate is focusing on preventative anti-corruption measures.
The quest for quality programming, equity in distribution of the benefits and transparency in the expenditure of resources, also applies to the other components of the administration’s social protection schemes. This point is critical because of perceptions of lopsidedness, exclusion, lack of transparency and favoritism in the selection of beneficiaries.
Complaints are also rife about the lack of involvement of critical stakeholders to ascertain the methods of identification and confirmation of identities of the beneficiaries of the schemes.
Whether at the level of perception or reality, there is a need for the governance of the scheme to respond proactively to these observations. Citizen confidence and the push towards a new culture of running government would take a dent, if the programme becomes another by-word for nepotism and cronyism.
Allegations that beneficiaries in several states have to be connected to political heavyweights and other partisan interests, defeat the essence of the programmes. In fact, these kinds of portraits breed resentments, and invariably fuel violence.
Given the quantum of national resources devoted to these social investments, it is of utmost importance that the management of the schemes benefit from key principles and best practices that should normally govern such programmes.
In the interest of equity, transparency and justice, these principles provide the compass with which the managers of the schemes should navigate them towards the realisations of core objectives. The first is the twin principle of legitimacy and accountability. These uphold the notion that the resources, especially funds committed to social investment programmes are collective resources belonging to all.
As such, managers of these programmes have to come to terms with the fact that they are managing the investments in trust for the entire country. Put differently, the billions of naira allocated for the social protection schemes should not be handled in the perfunctory and cavalier manner, as has been the culture with funds considered as “government monies.”
These monies come from the commonwealth of the Nigerian people, which should be managed in the best interest of citizens. Subsequently, the principles of legitimacy and accountability together impose a responsibility on the actors in the realm of governance to implement the programmes effectively and efficiently.
Arising from this point therefore, government is under obligation to render regular, transparent and verifiable account to the nation about management of the programmes.
Next is the programme management principle. It calls for the participation of all stakeholders, including the beneficiaries in the design, administration, control and evaluation of the social interventions. This principle, if adopted, provides the meeting point for unique perspectives of all groups to be impacted by the intervention, including youths, women, people living with disabilities and grassroots agencies.
It is equally pertinent to stress that for the programmes’ management principles to have the desired impact, the interventions have to be subjected to continuous and rigorous internal and external scrutiny. Their operations and results would have to face regular interrogation with the aim of bringing out the best.
Lastly, there is the principle of distributive justice, which is critical in a fractured society like ours, where so many have been left behind in the development ladder as a result of poor governance. Distributive justice will ensure that equity and fairness govern the social investment schemes. The principle holds that citizens are equally entitled to the benefits of the social investments, irrespective of gender, partisan disposition, faith, ethnicity, ability/disability, educational level or place of origin.
Affirmative action is therefore required under this principle to meet the special needs of vulnerable groups and to compensate for the discrimination and social disadvantages they suffer.
It is therefore important to ask: have President Buhari’s social investments conformed to these best practices? Without throwing away the baby with the bath water, it is clear from the hiccups in implementation, pockets of protests and other forms of perception problems that these fundamentals are lacking in several respects. The good news however is that it is not too late to make amends and reposition the programmes for maximum impact. What the government needs to do is to reflect on the outcomes so far and come to terms with the fact that it (the government alone) cannot possibly implement programmes of this magnitude successfully on its own.
To ensure that lack of equity in benefit sharing does not become a source of grievance and ultimately conflict, this is the time to rethink overall architecture of the social investment programme of the Buhari administration. In the course of this re-evaluation, a robust partnership with credible actors in civil society is important. Crucial too is the task of communicating the programme. The more information available, the less perception problems there would be. Given how high the stakes are for the ordinary people, there is no reason why there cannot be a specialised communication centre to put the message about government’s social investments in the public domain.
More transparency will ultimately empower citizens with knowledge of the programmes, and halt the machinations of political hustlers who would always see such interventions as opportunities to feather their nests and increase their power base, to the detriment of the ordinary citizen.
Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) Programme
THE HGSF programme, a critical component of the Social Investment Programme (SIP), is currently ongoing in only seven of the 36 states at the behest of the Federal Government. The states are Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Zamfara.
School Feeding Programmes (SFPs) have been defined by the World Bank as targeted social safety nets that provide both educational and health benefits to the most vulnerable children thereby increasing enrolment figures, reducing absenteeism, adding value to agriculture, as well as improving food security at the household level.
Beyond this, the bank adds that SFPs also have a positive impact on nutritional status, gender equity, and educational status, each of which contributes to improving overall levels of country and human development.
Educational and nutritional experts are in sync with the bank’s assertion even as they further assert that nutritional and health statuses are powerful influences on children’s learning abilities, and on how well they perform in school.
On the African continent, South Africa, which has over the last two decades, made a substantial investment in Early Childhood Development (ECD), a very critical phase in the academic development of children, has about nine million children benefitting from its school feeding programme.
Important as this may be, the figure is nowhere near what the Indian midday meals programme, one of the biggest of such schemes anywhere in the world is covering. Over 120 million children are benefitting from the scheme run in about 72, 000 primary schools across Bihar, the third-largest state in India by population, and one of the poorest in that country.
In Nigeria, through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act, the Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFHP) was introduced in 2004 by the Federal Government to, among other things, help in achieving Education for All, and the Millennium Development Goals. That legislation provided that at a minimum, all state primary schools must provide at least one meal a day to each pupil.
The phased-pilot rollout spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Education set sail with 13 states including Abuja, from the six geo-political zones on board. The states were Kebbi, Cross River, Enugu, Ogun, Imo, Kano, Kogi, Rivers, Osun, Nasarawa and Yobe and Bauchi states. At different times, they all abandoned the programme until the current Osun State government, returned to it.
The Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O’MEALS), which was formerly known as Osun State Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme commenced as a pilot programme in the state in May 2006.
BEFORE the commencement of the ongoing pilot scheme, the acting President Yemi Osinbajo had said that this core project of the Federal Government would yield about 1. 14 million new jobs; increase food production by up to 530, 000 metric tonne per annum, as well as attract fresh investments of up to N980bn.
Since getting underway last year, the HGSF has according to government gulped not less than N674, 785 for 24 per child, totaling meals on some 1,051, 619 pioneer primary school pupils across the benefitting seven states.
This amount represents the nominal cost on each pupil for the programme, in which the government said it sunk in N7.092b between last year and May 5, 2017, when the budget implementation terminated.
According to Senior Special Assistant on Media to Osinbajo, Laolu Akande, in implementing the programme, 25 million meals were served pupils within the period under review, indicating that each pupil received approximately 24 meals if distributed across board at the cost of N674, 785 per child. These figures are, however, yet to be verified because the data is simply not available anywhere
As the country awaits the signing of the 2017 fiscal plan, Akande expressed the hope that the school feeding programme would be revved up as more states are gearing up to embrace it.
He, however, regretted that the administration’s vision of the entire SIP could not be attained due to the glaring shortfall in revenue expectation, pointing out that instead of a N500b expenditure plan, only paltry N41b could be realised.
“A breakdown of the total number of meals served show that 1,051, 619 million primary school pupils are now being fed across the seven states of Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, and Zamfara states. No less than 11, 847 cooks have also been employed. Altogether 8, 587 schools are involved in those states,” he said of the school feeding programme.
“Soon, more meals would be served as Delta and Abia states are now ready to be paid under the Federal Government school feeding scheme. Delta State is expected to receive soon, the sum of N63, 366, 100 to start the feeding of 90, 523 primary school pupils. In the same vein, Abia State is also expected to receive N42, 921, 200.
“Besides, Kaduna State has been refunded the N3.4b it expended implementing the food programme ahead of Federal Government’s roll-out in the state,” the
presidential spokesman informed.
Even as the programme is yet to spread throughout the country, a public finance expert and lead director at Centre for Social Justice, (CENSOJ), Eze Onyekpere, has expressed doubts over it’s sustainability, and described the investment as outrageous.
According to him: “There are better cost-effective and efficient ways the government can boost enrolment and sustenance of pupils in schools other than this expensive way. Agreed that the total spend would include overheads spending and other ancillary costs, but even at that, the current cost is too high and the government cannot afford to borrow money and be spending it in this manner. The fact that the programme has not commenced in all states of the country, makes it discriminatory, hence a better equitable plan would be preferred.”
He stressed that a cost-effective and sustainable way of improving education at the primary school level should be the building of more classrooms; supply of free books and school uniforms; recruitment of more qualified teaching staff; improved supervision from the inspectorate divisions, and the abolition of all illegal fees still been charged by schools under all manners of subheads, in a regime of a supposed free and compulsory education in the first nine years.”
A primary school teacher in the FCT, where the programme is yet to kick off, John Akamjung, told The Guardian that teachers in FCT were looking forward to the commencement of the programme, even as he aligned with Onyekpere on the need to abolish all forms of charges including PTA fees and sundry charges, pointing out that because of the economic crunch, parents were withdrawing their wards from schools.
“The school feeding programme is vital because we have pupils whose parents cannot either feed them at home, or provide them with money for lunch, which is why we have cases of pupils stealing food or money that their colleagues keep carelessly. So, if school feeding were introduced in states, it would help boost enrolment figures and attention as well. But most importantly, the issue of abolition of fees here should be taken seriously because parents are now moving their children and wards from private schools to public schools because of school fees. As we speak, my class has swollen beyond 100 pupils as a result of the transfers. If government can therefore enforce the free education policy, you can be sure that public schools would benefit from it,” Akamjung further submitted.
Odilim Enwegbara, a development expert is in support of the school feeding programme, but is quick to warn that it should not be used as a campaign sludge fund for the APC.
“The school feeding programme is good because most of these school children are so poor that these meals could be the only good meal they would ever have and the most nutritious meals for their physical and mental wellbeing.”
He continued: “And because suppliers would be local, it would undoubtedly improve many local economies across the nation. That’s why I am fully in support of it. And I would oppose no amount of money spent on this programme. My only concern is that it should not be used as APC’s possible source of easy campaign finance for the 2019 elections,” he added.
ANAMBRA: Late Payment Of Caterers, Poor Ration Hurts Scheme
ACCORDING to the Federal Government, Anambra was the first state to receive funding late last year. By February, the state, which is said to have a total of 937 cooks and feeding 96, 489 pupils had received three full funding tranches to cover 30 school days, totalling N188m.
Since take off in December 2016, where pupils of primary one to primary three are the exclusive beneficiaries, the state has had to contain with several challenges.
The pupils are daily fed with meals including rice, yam porridge, beans, ripe plantain, moi-moi and local delicacy okpa etc. However, the quantity of food being served in some schools visited makes mockery of the exercise, even as there were complaints of inadequate caterers to make the exercise smooth. Late payment of caterers by contractors is also another challenge besetting the programme in the state.
Assistant Headmistress, Igwedumma Primary School, Amawbia, in Awka South Local Council, Bernadette Okpara, told The Guardian that pupils were fed a meal daily from Monday to Friday.
A pupil who gave his name as Uzoamaka, admitted that the food served them is usually small, but of good quality, while a caterer in the school, who alleged poor funding said the school submitted the names of 230 pupils, out of which 185 pupils were approved. That notwithstanding, they were still managing to feed the entire 230 pupils as leaving out those not approved was out of the question.
Headmistress of Community Basic Primary School, Amaenyi, Mrs. Eunice Okoli, maintained that the programme is yielding positive results in her school. She therefore urged the Federal Government to sustain the programme.
Her counterpart at Nkwelle Primary School, Mrs. Caroline Onyekonwu, is bothered by the quantity of food supplied to the school daily, saying it was grossly inadequate to take care of her pupils.
According to her, the school was recently supplied 110 pieces of moi-moi, as against the 143 pupils that are to benefit from the meal. A teacher at Udoka Primary School, Awka, who craved anonymity said only one caterer was posted to the school, which clearly needs more to make it possible for all pupils to be adequately attended to daily.
The State Programme Manager, Mrs. Ngozi Obidike, attributed the problems partly to increase in the number of new pupils, but assured that whatever challenges faced by schools would soon be taken care of.
OSUN: Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato Boosts Feeding
School feeding programme in Osun State started in 2006 and was redesigned in 2012 by the current administration, with the addition of more protein content, through menu review.
At a point, cocoyam was introduced because of its value, but due to the challenges of securing all-round availability, as well as, its rising cost, several alternatives were sought, especially foods that could boost the nutritional status of the pupils.
One of such is the Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP), introduced in January 2015, and consumed by pupils on Wednesdays. OFSP is a new variety of potato rich in Vitamin A, a critical vitamin that is deficient in most diets in sub-Saharan Africa, and remains a serious public health issue in the country.
Developed by the International Potato Centre (abbreviated by its Spanish acronym (CIP) and partners in 2014, CIP has pioneered a three-year project in Osun and Kwara states. In Osun, the project intervention entails the inclusion of OFSP in school meals as part of efforts to improve children’s nutrition.
The project, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has also trained bakers on the inclusion of 40 per cent OFSP puree (steamed OFSP) in wheat bread.
According to the Director/States Operations Officer, Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Office (O-MEALS), Oluwabunmi Ayoola, when the OFSP was first introduced to the schools’ menu, it was not really taken with relish, but with time, the pupils got used to it and its scope was expanded.
“We started with eight schools, but now it has expanded to 186 schools, covering over 17,000 pupils. Aside its nutritive advantages, it improves eye sight and good for diabetics. It is economical, its leaves can be used for producing drinks, and can also be used in bread production.”
She called on other states that are into the programme to introduce the new potato to save cost, address Vitamin A deficiency, and encourage farmers to cultivate what she termed a “wonder crop.”
Approving Ayoola’s assertions, project manager of the scheme, Dr. Erna Abidin said results from a number of researches reveal that one small-to-medium boiled root (approximately 125g or 1⁄2 to 1 cup) of most OFSP varieties can supply the recommended daily amount of Vitamin A for young children and non-breastfeeding women.
He added that OFSP roots have a nutritional advantage over white- or cream-fleshed sweetpotato roots because they have beta-carotene, and therefore Vitamin A content is higher, as evidenced by the deep orange color of their flesh. “Since cultivating OFSP on just 500 square meters can supply the needs of a family, farmers can still grow other crops to meet their diversified food needs at their household level.”
National Coordinator, Sweetpotato Programme and senior agronomist at CIP, Dr. Jude Njoku, said the project had introduced two OFSP varieties into the country since 2012.
“Farmers in Osun State are growing the “Mothers’ delight” variety, which is very high in beta-carotene. Its dry matter is low, but school children love it since it is sweet and not too hard.”
Osun seems to have mastered the school feeding programme with about 41, 216 students now fed weekly
Enugu: Many Schools Not Captured
ENUGU State flagged off the school feeding programme on February 8 this year. The Federal Government same month released the sum of N67, 244,800 to it for the feeding of 96, 064 pupils, and the payment of 1, 128 cooks engaged to execute this task.
Christened Enugu State National Home Grown Feeding Programme, sadly not all pupils that are qualified are benefitting from the programme because a good number of public primary schools are not captured. That also to a reasonable extent explains why less than half of the 3, 000 women trained for the project are currently engaged.
Checks around schools in the state by The Guardian reveal that while up to three caterers are attending to pupils in one school, another school within the same neighbourhood may not be benefitting from the programme.
Secretary of the steering committee and programme manager for the state, Ifeanyi Onah, in confirming the sad development said it has seriously affected the objective of the programme, even though it has boosted the state’s free education at the basic level.
“This development is causing serious chaos in our system. Each day in one school, pupils of primary one to three are being fed, while their counterparts in primary four to six, as well as, those in nursery schools are left out. You can imagine the wailing among those left out, especially those in the nursery section, when the aroma of the food assails them. We are therefore appealing to the Federal Government to do something about some of those not covered by the scheme,” he said.
Onah said the feeding was encouraging movements from one school to the other, stressing that the “increased enrollment may not be realistic if we do not feed all the schools. It is difficult to know the new enrolment figures because of those moving from one school to the other. So, we are appealing to government to see what can be done in that regard.”
Nonetheless, Onah said the scheme has had a multiplier effect on public schools, as well as, boosted the economy of the state. “We now have a situation where we feed our children with home grown foods. We no longer depend on foreign foods and this has boosted agricultural production. These women go into the market daily to buy food items to prepare for the children and their employment status has improved, and they now have access to banking facilities as they operate their bank accounts. This is an empowerment programme for women who wouldn’t have gone to this height without this platform.
“On the other hand, parents of the benefitting students are no longer bothered about feeding their children while they are in school. What that means is that they are saving their little income for other things. Our children no longer abandon school for anything; they no longer complain of hunger while in school. The overall effect is that it will boost their rate of concentration and school attendance,” he added.
One of the food vendors, Mrs. Veronica Ugwu, engaged at the Igbarim Primary School, told The Guardian that she had to quit her teaching job at a private school to join the programme, stressing that it has provided her with the opportunity “to cook and feed the children, as well as monitor their responses in the school.”
She said: “One thing I can tell you is that these pupils are hardly absent from school. Since we started feeding them last February, none of them has dropped, excerpt those who are ill. We feed them with pap, rice, beans, yam and egg among others and we follow the menu strictly. I can assure you that there is a marginal increase in the number of students that attended school last term.”
Vin Eze, a trader at Ogbete Market, became bothered when her daughter in primary two, kept on returning home with the food in her lunch pack intact. “I had to go to Achara Layout Primary School to ask questions and was told the Federal Government is feeding them. So since then, she doesn’t carry food to school any longer. I think the programme is good and I want it sustained.”
KADUNA: Govt Abandons Feeding Due To High Cost
WITH the Almajiri scourge ravaging northern states, Kaduna State government may have reasoned that free meals may bring about a turn around when it set sail with its All-School Feeding Programme, which took care of nursery pupils as well as their counterparts from primary one to six.
But after running it for 36 weeks, the state government dropped the idea like a hot potato when the Federal Government failed to discharge its part of the duty- making available, the N6.8 billion the state government expended on feeding pupils of primaries one to three, the categories covered by the Federal Government’s scheme.
However, for the period it ran, the state government said it spent N9.5 billion on feeding the pupils, and this translates to about N1.1billion monthly. Explaining why the feeding ground to a halt, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, said it was stopped because the Federal Government was not forthcoming with its counterpart funding. He promised that all things being equal, the exercise would recommence next month.
El-Rufai, while presenting his mid-term report on education at the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), however, disclosed that the state has received N3.4 billion, being half of the money owed it by the Federal Government.
“Kaduna State started partial school feeding in January but stopped it in August last year. We have spent at least N10 billion on the school feeding for the eight months. The initial arrangement was that primary one to three pupils would be fed by the Federal Government, while the state government would take care of and primary four to six.
“Since the Federal Government was not ready, we felt it would be unwise to go and feed primary four to six pupils and leave those of primary one to three. So, we fed all pupils of government primary schools for eight months … now the Federal Government has paid us half of the money they owed us, N3.4 billion remaining another N3.4 billion. We hope to re-continue the school feeding programme by next month. We have officials from Abuja to finish up the arrangement. We have reworked all the logistics, we have held several meetings, we are training our vendors and the consultants and we have more stakeholders involved,” said el-Rufai, who was represented by the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Andrew Nok.
While it lasted, the scheme employed 17, 000 women, “and now that we have to continue with the programme, it is very clear that the issue of sustainability is not a problem for us because we have a budget. We only had to suspend it because the burden was a little bit heavy for us…” the governor stated.
Ogun: Glaring Lapses
The Guardian investigations revealed that even though the programme has been running in Ogun State being one of the pilot states, there were noticeable lapses. For instance, at St. Paul’s Demonstration Primary School, Onikolobo, Abeokuta, the Headmaster, Dr. Waheed A. Agbeniyi, said only 67 pupils from primary one to six were benefitting from the programme, as against the 110 that are supposed to benefit.
Even though he could not give any satisfactory answer as to why the remaining 43 pupils have been shut out, he expressed satisfaction with the quality of food served.
Also, at O. L. A Primary School, Oke-Ilewo, Abeokuta, the Head teacher, David Durowoju, admitted that the programme has been “going on well,” but complained that only primary one pupils were being fed. He does not know the reason for this.
Both Durowoju and Agbeniyi, however, commended the food vendors for providing quality food. The programme manager who doubles as the Special Adviser to Governor Ibikunle Amosun on Special Projects, Mrs. Tinuola Shopeju, explained that during the launch of the programme, her principal had made it clear that only 874 of the 1,563 primary schools in the state, would benefit from the first phase of the initiative.
She claimed that all pupils in the 874 schools are benefitting from the programme as planned, assuring that everyone, who is supposed to benefit would do so in the second phase.
Shopeju further informed that the Federal Government approved only 1, 381 vendors instead of the 2,968 required to handle the first phase of the programme, because some intending vendors failed to provide their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), one of the major requirements made by the government.
“Through our efforts, more vendors have now opened bank accounts so we are making efforts to get them approved for the second phase,” Shopeju said, adding that the programme, which each meal costs N70, has been going on smoothly.
Oyo: Partial Implementation
SCHOOL feeding at the behest of the Federal Government began in Oyo State on January 30, this year. But like in some of the pilot states, its implementation is partial as not all qualified pupils are fed owing to large population of pupils in some primary schools.
Findings reveal that in some schools with large number of pupils, meals are only provided for primary one and two pupils because not all food vendors have assumed duties since January.
In schools visited by The Guardian including, C & S New Eden Primary School, Mokola; Ebenezer Anglican Church Primary School, Ekotedo; Saviour African Church Primary School, and Saint Andrews School, Omi Adio among others, none of them had all qualified pupils benefitting from the scheme.
Even though head teachers of these schools declined comment, it was gathered that the state government is aware of these inadequacies. It was also gathered that it was mandatory for the teachers to taste the meals before the pupils are fed.
The state Commissioner for Education, Prof Adeniyi Olowofela, while reacting to some of the challenges explained that a total of 168,450 pupils were captured for the programme in 2, 375 schools, and 2, 578 vendors approved to cater for them, but only 1, 332 of the vendors are rendering service to about 100,568 pupils. With this statistic, 67, 882 pupils are left out of the scheme.
In other words, 1, 246 vendors are yet to begin work, while out of 2, 375 primary schools in the state, pupils of 1, 151 schools are not benefitting from the scheme.
Though some vendors are yet to begin operation because of issues with their BVN, it was discovered that some approved vendors withdrew from the scheme because the N70 being paid for a meal per child is considered too small in view of the high rate of inflation in the country.
LAGOS Wary Of Hefty Extra Baggage
MANY would have expected that Lagos State with its massive haul of internally generated revenue, would have been one of the frontline states implementing the initiative.
But two years into the Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration, the scheme has not taken off, even though the governor, while presenting the 2016 budget to the state House of Assembly listed the school feeding programme as one of the projects to be executed in 2016.
He clearly stated then that the programme would be executed in collaboration with the Federal Government, which would provide 60 per cent of the funding, while the state would provide the remaining 40 per cent.
“This programme promises not only to improve the daily nutrition of our children. It will also create an economy of its own, with opportunities for job creation, income generation, poverty alleviation and so on,” Ambode said.
Ironically, when the issue was raised penultimate week during a press briefing by the Education Ministry to mark the administration’s second year anniversary, the deputy governor, Dr. Idiat Adebule, said the programme has not been activated because the state does not have the right environment in schools for its execution.
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