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Ekiti rekindles pupils’ hope with school feeding programme

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Ekiti rekindles pupils’ hope with school feeding programme

POLICY

With abysmal drop in the state indices in education, health and livelihood, especially in the primary school sub-sector, Ekiti State Government said the launch of the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme (NHSFP) would not only improve enrollment and retention in schools, but also enhance quality

 

 

  • 75,020 pupils, 905 schools to benefit
  • Fayemi: We’re committed to make programme a model

 

 

 

A critical step that will reposition education, especially primary school education in terms of improved enrollment and retention has been taken by the Ekiti State Government. This is as the state government keyed into the Federal Government National Homegrown School Feeding Programme (NHSFP) to enhance the quality of primary school education and make education more accessible and attractive to the children. With 13.5 million out-of-school children, there is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria sits on a keg of gunpowder, and the consequences are here sooner than expected, especially with the rising cases of violence in the country.

Apart from the violent extremists Boko Haram, the new waves of violent attacks by armed bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, assassins and growing army of internet fraudsters have clearly shown that Nigeria may be worse off in terms of insecurity if urgent steps are not taken by appropriate authorities.

To fight the scourge, President Muhammadu Buhari, upon assumption of office had pledged to reform the hitherto ailing education sector by opening up access, plug loopholes for corrupt practices, professionalise teaching, and introduce improved reward system within the sector.

Towards achieving the open access goal and as part of the administration’s National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme (NHSFP) was revitalised with improved funding, monitoring and supervision, and partnerships with appropriate individuals and authorities. Earlier launched in 2005 as School Health Policy in Nigeria, the school feeding programme which was piloted in 13 states across the six geo-political zones recognises the pivotal role of the programme towards achieving health and Education for All (EFA) goals.

The programme’s objectives as enshrined in the national school health policy include, hunger reduction among school pupils, increase in school enrolment, attendance, retention and completion rates. It also considers improving the nutritional status of the beneficiary school pupils, enhancing their comprehension and learning abilities. Cross-sectoral responsibilities in the delivery of the programme such as the relevance of the Ministries Agriculture and Rural Development, Health and Education were also clearly outlined. For instance, the programme was targeted at promoting agricultural practices in schools, facilitating the services of agriculture extension staff to schools, encouraging the formation and operation of young farmers’ clubs in schools.

However, few years after the programme was launched amidst pomp and pageantry, it was abandoned by the states over issues such as poor funding mechanisms, lack of proper coordination, corrupt practices among the implementing officials, among others. But, the exception was Osun State, which immediately clung tightly to the programme in order to reclaim what it described the lost glory of the state’s education sector.

The result, according to the immediate past governor of the state, Rauf Aregbesola, was the improved peaceful atmosphere across the state’s nooks and crannies, increased enrolment and better performance by pupils. It was, therefore, not surprising when the administration of President Buhari in 2016, launched the programme, claiming it had been revamped to take care of all the lapses identified with its implementation in the past. Placed under the supervision of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), the school feeding programme, which is the fourth leg of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), now operates a sponsorship sharing formula of 60 per cent and 40 per cent in favour of the Federal Government and the states respectively.

Before his visit to Ekiti State on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, for the official launch of the programme in the state, Osinbajo had launched the programme in 30 states of the federation, leaving only six states yet to key into the programme. According to the vice-president, the programme was already catering for 9.3 million pupils across the 30 states, where it had been adopted. He, however, added that the scheme had empowered farmers, whose produce, he noted, were being bulk-purchased for the programme. “It is important that the government programmes empower the people and alleviate poverty among the masses,” he had said.

The launch of the programme in Ekiti State, tagged: “Ekiti Kete School Meal,” was, therefore, another moment of fulfilment for the vice-president, the state Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and the entire people of the state, including pupils, teachers, parents, traditional rulers, among others, as they gathered at St. Michael’s African Primary School, Ajilosun Area of Ado-Ekiti, for the launch. Speaking at the event, the vice president reeled out data, saying the Federal Government had in-vested N5.6 billion in Ekiti State through the social investment programmes such as cash transfer programme and N-Power, among others.

Osinbajo added that the administration would soon increase the number of N-Power volunteers to accommodate more unemployed youths. He commended Governor Fayemi for keying into the programme, saying he was not surprised by the governor’s action and support for the success of the SIP, “because he was one of its initiators.”

The vice president noted that Dr. Fayemi pioneered some of the social security programmes, especially the introduction of the Youth Volunteers Programme (YVP), which is now called NPower at the national level and the Social Security for the elderly. The governor, in his speech, disclosed that about 2,000 people had already been employed to meet the feeding requirements of a total number of 905 public primary schools across the state. He added that the programme would create job opportunities along the value chain of the economy, as well as boost the income of peasant farmers by creating a viable and ready market for their produce.

The governor assured the Federal Government and the people of the state that his administration would play its part with utmost dedication, commitment and honesty to make the programme a model in the state. He, therefore, recalled that all the social security programmes that were initiated by his government during his first tenure, were jettisoned by his successor, with the state indices in education, health and livelihood abysmally dropped. He said this informed his resolve to key into the Federal Government’s SIPs and “reactivate our old social security programme.” He said: “Your Excellency, we, in Ekiti State, commend your relentless personal commitment and leadership on social investment in the country. I can confirm that it has made a major difference in distinguishing between a compassionate government and an uncaring one and the result was evident in the last election.

“It is clear that the people support our ideology that sees government as a catalyst for development, not a bystander that leaves everyone to his or her fate and we have you and Mr. President to thank for your exemplary leadership in this regard.” According to Fayemi, a total of 75,020 pupils across the 905 public primary schools in the state will be fed once daily through the programme, adding that the programme will not only increase school attendance and enrolment, but also checkmate malnutrition among pupils.

One of the caterers employed for the school feeding programme in Moba Local Government Area, Mrs. Modupe Ajisefini, who spoke with New Telegraph, thanked the government for the initiative, stressing that the programme had improved school attendance since it started a few weeks ago. She said the programme would provide nutritional value and improve pupils’ intelligence quotient. The event, which was graced by prominent monarchs in the state, also had in attendance education stakeholders and partners, who took turn to applaud the government for being on the side of the masses.

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