Osun Governor, Aregbesola Applauded In UK Parliament Over School Feeding Programme



…Makes case for nationwide adoption of scheme  

It was a historic moment for Nigeria and Africa on Wednesday as the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in the House of Commons, London, United Kingdom commended the Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O’MEALS) as a successful model to be copied worldwide.

Governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola received loud applause as he made eloquent statistical presentation before the parliamentary body during which he advocated the use of biometric registration of beneficiaries of the Home Grown School Feeding programme worldwide to eliminate corruption and guarantee transparency.

To guarantee sustainable future for Nigeria, the Governor called for the adoption of O’MEALS programme across the nation with appropriate legislative backing and extend it to the first nine years of schooling

At the meeting presided over by Lord Cameron of Dillington, Governor Aregbesola submitted before the world audience gathered in Committee Room 9 of the House of Commons that technology remained the best way out to address the concerns of development partners and international donors on the issue of corruption.

Addressing the concerns of development partners on what was referred to as all-pervading corruption through which project funds were usually lost in the past, the Governor expressed the conviction that once beneficiaries of the programme are registered biometrically, banks that are linked with the programme funding would rely on the data to process payment and ensure that no fund is lost at the implementation stage.

“Technology remains the only effective way to remove corruption from the implementation of the Home Grown School Feeding programme. Once the technology of biometric registration is introduced for beneficiaries, the data is linked to settle the banks and through that, the vendors are paid. Beneficiaries are then able to register their biometric features through the Point of Sales (POS) terminals to guarantee a transparent, corruption-free and efficient HGSF system worldwide”, he said.

All the four speakers including Professor Donald Bundy, the Lead Health and Education Specialist of the World Bank, Mr. Peter Rodrigues, the Chief of School Feeding and Chronic Hunger Unit of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ms. Boitshepo Bibi Giyose of NEPAD and Professor Josephine Kiamba, the Senior Technical Adviser of the Partnership for Child Development, Imperial College, London lauded Governor Aregbesola for successfully implementing the O’MEALS despite the challenging financial situation of his state.

Describing the Osun model of school feeding programme as worthy of emulation by all African countries, Professor Donald Bundy of the World Bank observed that the scheme had become the safety net to ensure that food gets to the poorest children in many countries of the world if the community based implementation strategies of Governor Aregbesola were adopted.

Speaking in the same vein, Mr. Peter Rodrigues of the World Food Programme noted that then State of Osun had shown practical ways to achieve the best result as the cost per child, per day and per annum demonstrated by Governor Aregbesola clearly explained the fact that Home Grown School feeding programme saves money and guarantees food security.

Promising that WFP would in the next six months come out with evidence to back this assertion, Rodrigues assured that Home grown school feeding model of the State of Osun had shown that it not only saves “a lot of money. It is very complex and we all need to get the local governments to buy into it and change the mindset of the host govt”.

They then urged the Federal Government and other state governments in Nigeria and across the African continent to adopt the O’MEALS model of Governor Aregbesola to tackle the challenges of food security, youth development, nutritional values of food for youthful population, health and educational administration as well as food security needs of their societies.

The Governor recalled that from April 30, 2012 when the programme was rebranded as O’MEALS to December 31, 2013 making a total of 330 school days, enrolment at Elementary schools jumped from 203,858 to 252,793 pupils representing an increase of 24 per cent.

According to him, his administration had committed N3,813,700,000.00 to the implementation of the school feeding programme that covered pupils from primary one to four.

Aregbesola stated further that “the cost per child per year was N15,100.00 or £57.60p while the cost per child per day was N45.70 or £0.17p. In the same breath, 3,100 women were appointed and re-trained as community-based food vendors while 462 out-growers of fish were successfully empowered for massive fish production to cater for the needs of the programme locally”.

The governor stressed further that in line with his promise two years ago to introduce the highly nutritious cocoyam to the nutrition timetable of the pupils, “our administration mobilized a professor from the state university to undertake the training of 1,000 farmers including 90 women in the pink cocoyam rebirth scheme”.

Governor Aregbesola who expressed the hope that other states of Nigeria and the Federal Government would adopt the Osun model of the school feeding programme called on technical/development partners and international donors to support the State of Osun in the task of capacity building to achieve biometric registration and digitization of beneficiaries of O’MEALS to guarantee transparency and sustainability.

The Governor, who linked effective learning with healthy student population also called on the international donors and advocacy groups to mount sustained pressures on national governments to adopt the Osun Model of O’MEALS in all their nations’ primary schools while extending it to the first nine years of schooling.

As a result of the successful implementation of O’MEALS in the State of Osun, Governor Aregbesola stated that virtually all-out-of-school children have now been taken into the school system pleading that he would like the Nigerian government “not only to adopt the O’MEALS model in all the nation’s primary schools but most importantly extend it to the first nine years of school in Nigeria”.

His words: “We require more support from our technical partners in the area of capacity building to achieve biometric registration and digitization of beneficiaries O’MEALS programme to guarantee transparency and efficient resource management”.