The Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike has stressed the need to re-awaken the interest of State and Local Governments and other stakeholders to effectively implement the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) launched in 2005 geared at enhancing enrolment at the primary school level.
The Minister stated this in Abuja in a keynote address to open the round table discussion on school feeding with the theme: Investing in School Feeding in Nigeria: Opportunities for achieving Home Grown School Feeding Programme for the benefit of school children and farmers in Nigeria, organized by Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with The Partnership for Child Development, the World Bank and Vitol Foundation.
The Minister, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Dr. MacJohn Nwaobiala, said that it is in realization of the critical role which adequate nutrition plays in the psycho-motor, cognitive and effective development of children that the Federal Government developed the school feeding initiative.
He said that the implementation started in 2006 with 12 pilot States across the six geo-political zone and FCT, noting with regret that it was only Osun and kano States Governments have been able to sustain the programme.
“We have to acknowledge the Governments of Osun and Kano States and give them credit for meeting this critical need for their school children, even with all the competing interests for available funds,” he said.
He said that if the programme is well implemented, it would accelerate enrolment, retention, completion and attainment of gender parity, among others at the basic education, adding that there is need for effective collaboration and partnership to achieve the common goal of implementing a sustainable school feeding.
“For us as a nation to achieve the objectives of this initiative, we have to revisit the programme with a view to formulating strategies that will help us to resuscitate school feeding service by re-awakening the interest of the State Governments, LG Councils and other stakeholders”, he said.
Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, while sharing his experience, said that the programme commenced in the State in May, 2006, but the State undertook a comprehensive review of the programme in November, 2010 on his assumption of office.
He disclosed that within the first five weeks of the comprehensive review, elementary school enrolment shot up by 38,935 pupils. He said that the State’s current elementary school enrolment figure stood at 253,000.
“The programme has likewise improved the health status of our school pupils benefitting from the programme. It has drastically reduced the incidence of school absenteeism compared to pre-O’Meals period.”
When speaking in the same vein, the Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso said that the implementation of school feeding in the State has helped to increase enrolment in primary school tremendously.
The Governor, represented by the Commissioner for Education, Dr. Tajudeen Gambo, said that school feeding programme is a veritable avenue to fight disease, increase enrolment and community participation in education. He however, urged the Federal Government to provide adequate financial support to the States for effective implementation.
Prof. Don Bundy of World Bank, commended Nigeria for the initiative, saying school feeding is a big business and Governments over the world are implementing the programme because it not only help to keep children in schools but a safety net to provide meal for children from poor homes, as well as stimulate agricultural activities within the communities.