HEADLINE

Sunday, 19 February 2017

FG’S SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAMME FACES SETBACK



THERE appears to be a fresh crisis in the feeding programme of the federal government.
Sunday Tribune investigations revealed that general adjustment has been carried out in the list of menu under the school feeding programme of the Federal Government in some states where it has commenced
Also, cooks engaged for the programme are worried about the delay in the disbursement of funds to them to facilitate their operation, under which the government is targeting about one million pupils as beneficiaries.
For example, under the initial menu list for Oyo State, pupils from primary 1 to 3 were to enjoy yam, stew, boiled egg and banana on Monday; cornmeal, beans, beef and watermelon for Tuesday; bread, stew, boiled egg and orange for Wednesday_; yam porridge, vegetable, beef and watermelon on Thursday and rice, beans, boiled egg and orange on Friday.
But the revised timetable indicated that only yam porridge, vegetable and banana will be served on Monday; cornmeal, beans, stew beef and watermelon on Tuesday; bread, stew, boiled egg and banana on Wednesday; yam porridge, vegetable, beef and orange on Thursday and rice, beans, stew and orange on Friday.
Still in Oyo State, the programme has been suspended in the past one week.
The state government, keyed into the national scheme with about 2,578 vendors engaged to provide daily menu for the pupils.
Sunday Tribune discovered that there have been complaints ranging from poor meals to irregular release of funds for purchase of food stuffs.
Some food vendors in their interactions with our correspondent noted that they had had to ration the meals pegged at N70 per pupil.
But, the supervising Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in the state attributed the hiccups experienced to the fact that the Federal Government was yet to lodge another N72 million for another two weeks starting February 13, 2017.
The commissioner Professor Adeniyi Olowofela noted that only 60 per cent of the engaged vendors got the needed money for the first two weeks (January 30 – February 10), while the remaining 40 per cent of the vendors did not receive funding because they had issues with their account numbers.
In Osun, some food vendors, said that the last time payments were made to them by the state government was January 16th, 2017, a week before the federal government took over a similar feeding progarmme of the state government.
According to one of them from Egbedore Local Government, "the Federal government should take urgent steps to ensure prompt payment to food vendors.
"The state government was paying us N16, 450 per week to feed 45 primary school pupils per week. Now, the Federal Government wants to be paying us N23, 500 per week. The payment should not be delayed to avoid failure of the scheme."
In Enugu, it was discovered that the impact of the programme was yet to be felt by pupils in government-owned primary schools largely due to logistics, whereas the government said it had released N67,244, 800 to feed 96, 064 pupils and 1128 cooks engaged for the programme.
Further investigation showed that many of the cooks are finding it difficult to cope with the meagre fund given to them.
One of them, who preferred to remain anonymous said that she is given N35,000. to feed 35 pupils for five school days per week, lamenting that she is not making progress due to the high cost of food items in the market.
"If government does not add more money to what is given to me, I will opt out of the scheme. I am running at a loss. I am just trying to keep the job," the cook added.
It was gathered that due to the poor renumeration, the quality of food is decreasing each passing day.
According to one Mrs. Nkechi Chime, "there is need for government to review the feeding programme. It is a laudable programme but the implementation is poor."
Investigations conducted by Sunday Tribune revealed that the scheme in Ogun State actually took off on a good note, with the cooks adhering to the official menu list.
However, reports had it that the scheme had drastically changed, compared to when it was flagged off.
The pupils were served a meal with a piece of meat and bottled water on the first day.
However, the story changed days after, as the pupils were asked to bring water from their homes.
While the programme had started in some schools in state, reports said it  is yet to start in other places.
The reason for this development was attributed to the fact that many of the food vendors failed to submit their correct bank details, while a source said that the fund so far released by the federal government was insufficient.
Only last week, the Federal Government said it had released a sum of N844,360,550 for the commencement of the School Feeding, a component of its Social Investment Programme, in seven states across the county.
The Senior Special Assistant to the acting President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, said this in a statement on Monday.
With the payment made as of the end of last week, Akande said the government had now released enough fund to start feeding more than one million pupils every school day in the seven states.
He explained that, while money had been made available to the seven states, the programme had commenced in only five states.
-Tribune
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