By Collins Yakubu-Hammer (News Agency of Nigeria)
The Federal Government introduced the N70 per day, per child National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) in 2016, in order to boost enrolment into primary schools across the country.
The programme covers pupils in primary one to three in public schools.
Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, who appraised the programme recently, said it had impacted positively.
At a ceremony held at the Federal Capital Territory LEA Model Primary School, Karu, Farouq gave statistics of how the programme has impacted on pupils, farmers and cooks across the country.
“The NHGSFP is currently benefiting more than 8.4 million pupils in over 56,000 public primary schools in 35 states across Nigeria.
“More than 107,670 cooks have been empowered and over 200,000 smallholder farmers linked to the programme through the supply of locally sourced ingredients to improve the nutrition and quality of meals for our children.
“In the FCT alone, 73,000 pupils are being fed in 402 schools by 796 women. The benefits of these are evident.
“With over 8.4 millions eggs consumed weekly and over 94 metric tonnes of fish, the School Feeding Programme provides local farmers with predictable markets for their products, leading to stable income.
“The children enjoy good health and diversified food, which makes it more likely that they will stay in school, perform better and improve their adult job prospects.
“At the community level, the programme promotes nutrition, education, better eating habits, and encourages the diversification of production with special emphasis on local crops,’’ Farouq said.
There was no setback during the COVID-19 lockdown as the Federal Government inaugurated the Take-Home Ratio Kits for the children to help feed them at home.
At the inauguration in Kuje, FCT, Farouq said: “Hunger is a serious by-product of the pandemic, which is why the ministry has been evolving strategies to facilitate humanitarian interventions.
“The commencement of the modified NHGSFP today is based on Mr President’s directive to the ministry to liaise with state governments to develop strategies on the continuation of the NHGSFP even though the pupils are at home.
” Beginning today in the FCT, this programme will target parents and guardians of pupils in primary one to three in public schools participating in the programme.
“A total of 3.1 million households are targeted for this intervention; Lagos and Ogun are next port of call before the programme moves to other states of the federation,’’ Farouq said.
The FCT Minister of State, Hajiya Ramatu Aliyu, said the essence of the modified programme was to ensure that with the lockdown, pupils do not look malnourished before the resumption of schools.
Unarguably, the programme has boosted school enrolment as well as beefed up earnings of local farmers and cooks.
A technical officer for the programme in Sokoto State, Malam Mustapha Abdullahi, said no fewer than 1,881 schools and 348,000 pupils have benefitted, with food vendors numbering 2,092.
“Our survey and record showed that there have been over 40 per cent remarkable increase in enrolment. The programme has enhanced performance and makes the learning process easier,” he said.
Abdullahi, however, expressed concern about some pupils who return home after eating rather than continuing with their studies.
He appealed to parents of such pupils to always send them back to school anytime they ran back home.
In Kano State, over two million pupils in primary schools across the 44 local government areas are benefitting from the programme.
The Community Re-orientation Council (CRC) is involved in the School Feeding Programme.
The Chairman of CRC, Malam Ya’u Yanshana, said 13,000 vendors, mostly women across the 44 LGAs, were engaged as cooks, egg suppliers, and other commodity providers.
A school head, in a riverine community of Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta, who pleaded anonymity, said the programme had been irregular since it was launched in the state in 2017.
State managers of the programme gathered recently in Abuja to appraise progress made, how to overcome challenges and areas of improvement.
Hajiya Hauwa Yerima, the National School Feeding Programme Manager for Adamawa, said that the programme is touching the lives of pupils and vendors positively.
“We have about 20,952 pupils enrolled in the scheme, out of 1, 982 primary schools in the state, we were able to captured 1, 335.
“The vendors are being paid regularly and as when due.
“By the time we capture the remaining schools, more children will be enrolled into the schools, jobs will be created for our women and farmers respectively,’’ Yerima said.
However, she stressed that monitoring and evaluation remain major challenges because of the difficult terrain in some local government areas in the state.
She appealed to the Federal Government to review upward the N70 per meal, because according to her, the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation have overshadowed the N70 that was fixed in 2016 when the programme started.
Mr Umar Ndashacba, NHGSFP Manager in Niger, said even though the programme was inaugurated in the state in 2018, it has created over 14,000 jobs for women and opportunity for farmers to boost agricultural production.
A widow, Mrs Hanatu Suleiman, who is also a mother of three, and lives in Kuje, FCT, says the programme is helping her to feed her children.
“Most time when they come back from school, they would tell me they are not hungry, that they gave them food in the school. I will then reserve the lunch for super.
“I appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari and Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq for their sincerity, honesty and passion for the NHGSFP,’’ Suleiman said.
Similarly, Mr Emeka Okorie, whose two children are in primary one and three at LEA Model Primary School, Karu, FCT, said he would like the programme to continue.
He added that the feeding of the children in the school was a relief, as he was facing challenges in his business.
Without doubt, the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme has the potential to greatly boost school enrolment. What is required is to check corrupt practices, that many stakeholders and analysts complain about. (NANFeatures)