• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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School feeding programme restored in Delta as FG pays caterers to cook

School feeding programme restored in Delta as FG pays caterers to cook

Darlington Ijeh, the Delta State commissioner for Humanitarian and Community Support Services has said that the state government has continued to push for the successful implementation of the National Home School Feeding Programme (NHSFP) in the state.

He said that the efforts made the federal government resume paying the caterers to cook and feed primary one to three pupils in the public schools across the 25 Local Government Areas of the state.

BusinessDay learnt that for the past three years, the programme had been comatose because the caterers were not consistently paid, thus, they had no money to cook and feed the pupils in line with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the federal government and the state government.

Ijeh revealed that it is not just that the caterers have now been paid to cook but that new 98,000 pupils would be captured in the ongoing data capturing of pupils in public schools, to benefit from the programme.

The amount for a plate of meal per pupil has also been increased from N70.00 to N100.

He made the disclosure in Asaba during a two-day meeting with the 2,600 caterers, local government secretaries and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the NSIP, from the three senatorial districts of the state.

Ijeh, said that the success recorded was as a result of the commitment of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who he said believes that his administration must finish strong.

The commissioner who was appointed into the office recently, said: “the number of forms we had were 48,000 and through intervention and passionate logical appeal before the Hon Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD),

an additional 49,000 forms were released to the state for the ongoing capturing exercise in public primary schools in the state and we are expecting more 49,000 forms.”

He said that data of the pupils must be captured, else the caterers would not be paid in the next phase.

Already, about 261,000 primary one to three pupils have so far been recorded as intakes as schools resumed for the 2022 academic year.

“This programme is a federal government programme but you cannot get it right without the state earnestly working and making sure that the programme is successful, ” he said.

“That was the reasonOkowa’ insisted that all of you must be happy. You cannot be shortchanged anymore,” he assured them.

Henry Agwazim, the state focal person on the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), in an interview, told BusinessDay, that the essence of the meeting was to inform the caterers in the HGSFP on the latest implementation plan from the FG as well as measures put in place by the state government and of course, celebrate the increase that they got in terms of payment.

“As a directorate, what we know how to do is to work in conjunction with Governor Okowa’s Finishing Stronger mandate of alleviating poverty.

Also speaking, Kingsley Emuh, the chief economic adviser of the state, said that his presence at the meeting was as a result of the good report about the programme.

The reports reaching us indicate that you have improved and by God’s grace, you would improve more, he said.

While advising them to carry out their assignment (of feeding the pupils) with diligence, Emuh also encouraged them to be a blessing to others as God is blessing them.

Most of the caterers interviewed disclosed that they stopped feeding the children because they were being owed.

They also said that because the payments were not steady they were not also steady in cooking.

Highlight of the two-day event was the distribution of cooking utensils to the caterers as well as the appointment or reappointments of the NGOs and secretaries representing the various LGAs in the programme.

Meanwhile, checks by BusinessDay revealed that the caterers have started cooking and feeding the pupils since Thursday, October 7 as scheduled.

The headmistress at the Uzoigwe Primary School, located along Nnebisi Road, Asaba, commended the state government for collaborating with the FG in alleviating poverty in the state and prayed for greater commitment by all parties for the programme to be totally successful.

The children need the food and they look up to be served during lunch hour each day they come to school. Those who wouldn’t have been absent from school are attracted to school because of the free meal, she said.

It would be nice if the programme would be extended to cover primary five to six pupils because the state of the nation’s economy is taking its toll on families and as such, some of them can hardly afford to provide adequate food for their children.

The programme is one of the components of NSIP, initiated in 2016 by incumbent president Mohammadu Buhari, to encourage pupils’ participation in schools and alleviate poverty.

Delta State keyed into it and even trained the caterers on how to cook home-grown food and feed the pupils with nutritious meals. It also set up administrative structures to ensure the successful implementation of the programme.

The programme in the state was initially successful until the failures of the last three years. The stakeholders in the state are hopeful that with the reactivation of the programme, things would be better and better.