The National Home Grown School Feeding Programme NHGSFP, formally inaugurated on June 9, 2016, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is part of the Social Investment Plans of the present administration for which N500bn was budgeted for in the 2016 Appropriation Act.
Though the programme which started about three years ago was described laudable, observers believe it has been characterized by fraud and failed to meet the expectations of Nigerians. The programme was launched by Vice President when he said,
“Today we lay an important building block in securing our future by mapping out the implementation plan to ensure that even the most disadvantaged children are free from malnutrition.”
The primary aim of the programme among others include, ‘Increasing school enrolment and completion. It was intended to address the current trend where Nigeria has about 30 percent primary school dropout. In addition, the programme was launched to Improve child nutrition and health. Study has shown that Nigeria has the third largest population of chronically undernourished children in the world. It was to strengthen local agricultural economies by providing a school feeding market in which farmers can sell their produce. The scheme was also intended to create employment opportunities with jobs in catering, processing and farming.
During the launch of the programme at Eyaen Primary School in Uhunmwode Local Government Area of Edo State last December, Osinbajo revealed that the programme feeds 9.3 million children in 49,937 public primary schools in 27 states, including Edo State.
A head teacher in one of the primary schools in Ogun State who did not want her name mentioned because of job security told our reporter that though the programme is laudable, it has been hijacked by politicians.
She said, “The other day I challenged the food vendor over the quality and quantity of the food given to the pupils, the following day, I was asked to report to Abeokuta the state capital to explain why I challenged the food vendor on the food given to pupils”.
She declared that the contract for the feeding was given to politicians who now sublet the job to vendors.
“The quality and quantity of the food would have been better if the programme was devoid of political manipulation and interference” A school parent who spoke to our correspondent and requested that her identity should not be disclosed said that a child that depends on the government’s feeding programme would not be properly fed.
Similarly, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has condemned the Federal Government’s involvement in the school feeding programme, saying it is essentially a programme that the states should execute.
The ex-President stated, “Any programme that will enhance food intake, particularly of the youth, and that will help them in their growth, vitality, and in giving them better nutrition, I would regard as a good programme. (As president) I encouraged it. It is not supposed to be a Federal Government programme.
“If I remember correctly, I think Nasarawa State had a similar programme which was good; Kano State had one which was good. I think one of the states in the South-West also had one. But it was not a federal programme. It was initially a state programme that was encouraged and assisted (by the Federal Government) as much as possible in the past”.
Speaking to journalists recently in Kwara State, The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education, Hon. Zakari Mohammed described the programme as a fraud.
He said, “As far as I am concerned, it is a fraud. It is a fraud because it is not domiciled in the right place because the ministry of education should be in charge; instead it has been taken to the presidency.
“I have said it times without number that the budgetary provision for the school feeding programme should be domiciled in the ministry of education.
“The Federal Ministry of Education has the resources, the manpower to be able to monitor it. But where it is located now is a fraud. Many people are angry that Kwara is not benefitting. For me, whether Kwara benefits or not from it, it is a programme I never believed in.”
Now that the Buhari led government has won re-election, for another four years in office, observers believe the programme should be overhauled in order for it to achieve its purpose in the overall interest of improved education in the country.