From Cross River, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti to Bauchi, some of the beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s N-SIP, particularly in the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), are speaking.
Close to four years in President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, one of the programmes of the Federal Government, which has resonated, is the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP). In the programme, millions of lives have been touched as the Federal Government feeds schoolchildren.
From Cross River, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti to Bauchi, some of the beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s N-SIP, particularly in the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), are speaking. They are full of commendations for government.
At Obere Primary School, Obere, in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State, a cook who was a beneficiary of the scheme, Mrs. Anu Akintola, commended the Federal Government for initiating the school feeding programme.
Her words: “I got the contract to be cooking for pupils at the school. In my nine months of cooking here, the children are so excited whenever it is mealtime. The head of the school confessed to me that the school attendance has increased and has been stable since the feeding programme started. Nobody misses the meal. It is not just a meal but also a balanced diet. Certain ingredients are expected in any food we cook.
“Our supervisor monitors and ensures that there is no compromise, for the benefit of the pupils. The school also appoints teachers to taste the food we cook to confirm if it is healthy for consumption. I want to thank the government for this gesture because it is an opportunity not just for me but it has put food on our table. From the profit l make from the cooking business, life has become worth living for my family and l.”
A teacher at the Obere school, Mistress Ayo, said the pupils were more studious since the school feeding was launched there. She pleaded with government to continue the scheme, as it has many advantages for the immediate and future benefit of society.
The Federal Government is currently feeding over eight million children daily in its school feeding programme. Reports have it that close to 50,000 schools in 24 states are participating in the programme. Through the programme, over 80,000 women have been engaged as cooks.
In March, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed that no fewer than 7.4 million pupils were benefiting from the school feeding initiative being implemented through the NHGSFP.
Osinbajo said the programme provided a social safety net that improves the health and education of the poorest and most vulnerable children in Nigeria. He added that the scheme was among government’s efforts to combat poverty, anchored on ensuring nutrition for the children.
Apart from reeling out the numbers of beneficiaries, an apparent impact is being created by feeding schoolchildren, thereby freeing the household from the burden of what the child would eat during school hours. The child is happy to go to school every day and thus school enrolment increases and attendance is stabilised as well.
A young teacher who spoke on behalf of Saint Mary’s Primary School, Efut Abua, in Calabar South Local Government Area of Cross River State, said the performance of the pupils in his school had tremendously improved.
Even a state like Borno now has increased number of students returning to school after the activities of terrorists in that state.
A look at the programme revealed a spiral effect, particularly the number of hitherto unemployed Nigerians it has touched.
An ecsystem has been created, from feeding a child to having the farmer assured of sale of produce, to cooks that are employed. The circle of positive engagement enlarges to include the families of the famers and cooks that earn money from the sale of their produce, and then to the families of the fed children who are no longer burdened with catering for their children’s school time meals daily.
A teacher at a public school in Dass Local Government Area of Bauchi State, Abdulahi Abdusalam, lauded the initiative and described the drivers as purposeful, transparent and diligent. He urged the federal government not to be distracted by contrary views, which perceived the project as a waste of resources.
Another beneficiary, the head of a primary school in Ondo, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that the way government was feeding pupils was like what the majority of the elders of Nigeria enjoyed in the olden days, when food was not a concern or hindrance to studying.
Lagos-based public affairs analyst, Adebanjo Olamide, said, judging from the ecosystem and the testimonies that reverberate across the land, government was moving in the right direction, but Olamide added that, perhaps, the extent of need is far higher than the efforts of government and that has limited the impact from being felt far and wide.
Many have legitimately asked why the feeding programme was not yet present in some states. At present, 24 states are benefitting from the programme and there are plans for its expansion.
Recently, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Osinbajo, Laolu Akande, announced that the programme had touched and was still touching the lives of many Nigerians.