The federal government on Thursday said enrolment in school across the country has spiked by 20 % on the back of the National Home-grown Feeding Enterprise and empowerment programme.
This is coming on the heels of the concern posed by a huge number of out of school children in the country numbering about 10.5 million,
The programme is currently operational in 31 states across the country, while the remaining states and the Federal Capital Territory are gearing up to join other states, for an initiative the government said has created an economic structure for structural demands for smallholder farmers.
The government also noted that an executive bill is currently underway to ensure the sustainability of its social safety programmes, which is focused in four key areas of N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes.
Mariam Uwais, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investment, told newsmen on Thursday that the social safety programmes were structured to be impact-oriented, specifically catering to the needs of the poor, vulnerable, unemployed and those at the bottom of the pyramid without access to finance.
“Today, we have 103,992 cooks on our payroll, feeding 9,714,342 pupils in 53,715 government primary schools around 31 States, while all the remaining states are at various stages of meeting the criteria we have laid for feeding to commence. These children can eat a balanced diet, towards improving their learning outcomes,” she said.
She said the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme has been feeding over 9.7 million pupils, adding: “It is instructive to note that the Federal Government has achieved this feat within the space of 3 years.”
The aim of the programme, she said, was to provide one nutritious, balanced meal for 200 school days in a year, to pupils in classes 1 to 3 in public primary schools to boost enrolment, increase the cognitive function in children and battle malnutrition.
“In the past four years, the programme has helped increase enrolment in primary schools by over 20%, empowered cooks, smallholder farmers and communities as a whole.”
Speaking on the concerns over the safety and hygiene of the food, she explained: “Selected cooks are screened medically and then trained on financial skills, hygiene and nutrition, then thereafter on-boarded into banks. Thereafter, direct payment commences through the validation of the BVN by NIBSS, to their accounts. “
This process facilitates financial inclusion, identification and efficient measurement, as well as tracking payments transparently, she further said.
On the conditional Cash transfer, Uwais explained that the government had worked with the World Bank to get a National Register to work out a model through community-based target strategy. This involves the community leaders working on set criteria by the World Bank to identify and categorise those to benefit from the government’s N10 000.
“We have currently over 400 000 people in the register, as we are targeting 1 million after the inauguration to keep expanding the programme,” said.
Also at the briefing, Afolabi Imohkuede, who heads the N-Power programme of the federal government, observed that there were still concerns over skills gap in relevant key areas in the economy and that the programme was focusing on empowering Nigerian youths with skills relevant to address 21st-century needs.
He said that N-Power graduate volunteers works are spread across the 774 local government areas of the country engaged in teaching in public schools, as support staff workers in primary health centres, and agricultural extension advisors to smallholder farmers in communities.
“N-Power graduate volunteers are given devices preloaded with learning modules along with a monthly stipend of N30,000 for a period of two years,” he explained.
He further pointed out that the non-graduate category of the programme, made up of N-Build, N-Tech (Software and Hardware) and N-Power Creative, train beneficiaries for a period of three months after which they become interns through close collaboration with industry councils.
According to him, N-Build has revived the apprenticeship culture by training beneficiaries in 7 trades, N-Power Tech trains beneficiaries in the repair of hardware devices and software training, N-Power Creative trains beneficiaries in 2D/3D Animation, Graphic/Illustration, Scriptwriting, Voice Acting and Post- Production.
Uwais declared that out of an annual budget of N500 billion, between 2016 and 2018, the total sum of N470,825,522,694.62 was released to the NSIO and expended on the programmes as follows:
2016 – N79,985,158,705.32
2017 – N140,000,000,000.00
2018 – N250,840,363,989.30.
HARRISON EDEH, Abuja