Fg’s School Feeding Project Starts Poorly — Investigation

The implementation of the Federal Government’s free meal programme for public primary school pupils in the five pilot states of Anambra, Ebonyi, Oyo, Ogun and Osun states has started on a poor note.

The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Mr. Laolu Akande, had in a statement last Sunday said the government had released over N375m as part of its Homegrown School Feeding Programme meant to cater for almost 700,000 primary school pupils in the five states for 10 school days.

According to Akande, N119,648,900 was paid to 1,381 cooks to feed 170,927 pupils in Ogun State while 1,466 cooks in Ebonyi got N115,218,600 to feed 164,598 pupils.

He added that 937 cooks in Anambra were paid N67.5m to feed 96,489 pupils; 1,437 cooks in Oyo state got N72.2m to feed 103,269 pupils, while N867,370 was paid to 2,688 cooks in Osun to feed 142,193 pupils.

In Anambra State, pupils had started enjoying the meals but complained about the poor quality of their food, when one of our correspondents visited them.

Some of the cooks however blamed the Federal Government for not releasing enough funds to take care of all the pupils, forcing them to ration the food to the pupils.

At Igwedumma Primary School, Amawbia, in Awka South Local Government Area, the Assistant Headmistress of the school, Mr. Bernadette Okpara, said the pupils were fed a meal each from Monday to Friday.

A pupil who gave his name as Chinasa said, “The food is tasty but it’s small.”

The two caterers in charge of the primary school, who craved anonymity, complained of poor funding.

One of them said, “For this school, we gave the names of 230 pupils that would be fed but they approved the feeding of 185 pupils. But we are still managing to feed all 230, because you can’t deny any of them of it.

“We have fed them for five days, remaining five more days which will end next week. At the end of the 10 days, we will stop unless they bring more money.”

The Chairman of the Anambra State Universal Basic Education Board, Olisa Nzemeka, said the pupils’ feeding was hampered by bureaucratic delays in receiving the funds.

Nzemeka said, “Some schools have not benefitted because some caterers had not been paid due to some banking issues like BVN and such things, but the programme is a welcome development.”

As of Friday, the Ogun State Government had yet to commence the free feeding of pupils in public primary schools in the state, two weeks after the cooks had been mobilised

Efforts to reach the state Commissioner for Special Duties, Leke Adewolu, proved abortive as he was neither in his office nor did calls made to his telephone line connect.

In Oyo State, some principal officers in the schools, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had yet to be informed of the modalities that would be involved in the programme.

One of the teachers at the IMG Primary School in the Apata area of Ibadan said none of the contractors accredited for the programme had visited the school.

He said, “We have yet to see any sign that the programme will start here. Government talks of contractors being sent to the schools but here at IMG, we have yet to see any. No pupil has been fed here. There is supposed to be a guideline but that has not been put in place.”

The state Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Teachers in Oyo State, Waheed Olojede, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress in the state, said government had yet to inform the teachers’ body of how the programme would be executed.

“We read about the programme and that money had been released to contractors for its launch but we were not involved in the programme. As far as we are concerned, we do not know anything about it,” he said.

The launch of the feeding programme slated for Ebonyi State on January 25 failed to hold as organisers of the event boycotted the programme.

Efforts to contact the programme coordinator for comments on the indefinite postponement of the scheme were unsuccessful as her mobile phone was switched off.

Pupils in Osun State were seen enjoying the free meals when one of our correspondents visited some of their schools last week but it was not clear whether the feeding was under the FG arrangement or the state was continuing with its programme initiated under Governor Rauf Aregbesola.

Some of the pupils, who spoke to our correspondent in Osogbo on Friday, said, “They still give us food at break time and it is free.”

Another pupil of Ansaru-deen Elementary School, Sherifat Ogundoyin, noted that the government was still giving free meals from Mondays to Fridays.

Ogundoyin said, “We eat rice, beans, yam and bread. We also eat egg, fish, meat and fruits.”

Akande had said each pupil under the Homegrown School Feeding, a component of the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme, is entitled to a N70 meal per day.

Akande noted that under the scheme, the pupils would be entitled to feed from Monday to Friday.

He said payments from the Federal Government were made in batches of 10 school feeding days at a time.

He said, “The cooks received funds based on the number of pupils assigned to them by the state at the cost of N70 per child per day for 10 days.

“So, for example, if a cook is to feed 100 pupils, she would receive N70 for 10 days in 100 places, making N70,000.”

When asked how the cooks were selected, Akande said states were responsible for the selection of the cooks.

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