The failure of successive administrations in Nigeria to bring up the nation’s children socially and educationally has been described as the reason behind high spate of terrorist activities presently rocking the country in form of Boko Haram insurgency. There is the claim that uneducated and badly educated children grow up to develop hatred for society, thus becoming easy recruits for terrorists.
Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, said this recently while declaring open a three-day workshop on Technical Meeting on Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O-MEALS) at the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding, Osogbo, the state capital.
Aregbesola said the state’s school feeding programme is packaged to meet the world standard and in conformity with statues of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), saying the security challenges presently facing the country could be nipped in the bud if all concerned in the development of children could carry out their duties with a sense of responsibility.
Describing O-Meals as a revolution in governance, the governor said his administration made it a priority to deworm elementary school children across the state to guard against losing nutrients the children gain from taking meals served them to worms, adding that constant supply and security of food would be sustained if school feeding programme is embraced by all.
According to the state governor, the nation’s education sector would be positively positioned, more jobs would be created, the agriculture sector would be improved while qualitative health programme would be made available to the citizenry with the nation’s future secured through O-Meals implementation.He thereafter appreciated efforts of those who had, at one time or the other, partnered with the state government to make the programme a success with a special commendation to local government council areas in the state who had provided no less than 60 per cent of the total expenditure on O-Meals to the state government put at over N3 billion annually.
Aregbesola also used the occasion to call on other partners to come to the aid of the state government so as to sustain the programme for many years to come and extend it to middle and high school students in public schools across the state.
In her welcome address, Osun’s deputy governor and Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, called on the Federal Government to encourage state governments across the country to get involved in school feeding programmes by increasing allocation to school feeding programmes considering its huge costs.
According to her, O-Meals has positively impacted on the economy of the state of Osun through employment generation for youths in general and unemployed graduates in particular as a large number of them have been assisted financially to embark on food and animal production.
Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, represented by Dr. Chris Isokonu of the Federal Ministry of Health, commended efforts of Aregbesola for taking up the challenge of feeding school children in the state, not minding the financial challenges confronting the Osun at this critical time.
Advising parents to always feed their children with food rich in energy to secure their future, the Minister appealed to Aregbesola to extend the O-Meal programme to pre-school children in Osun with a view to improving on the feeding of children under the age of five across the state.
Representing the executive secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr. Dipo Sulaimon, the deputy executive secretary of the commission, Dr. Yakubu Gambo, pledged to ensure that the position of the law establishing UBE in 2004 stating that five per cent of the nation’s revenue should be allocated to school feeding is carried out to the letter to assist state governments to feed their children in schools.
He thereafter promised that Osun and Kano states will benefit more than other states in the federation for sustaining the programme all these years even without UBEC assistance.
On her part, the executive director of the Partnership for Child Development (PCD), Dr. Lesley Drake, said this was the time to revitalise school feeding programme in Nigeria.
Describing school feeding programme as a social safety net, encourage local production and ensure that kids stay in school, Drake charged participants to build on what is on the ground and fashion out ways of improvement.
She said PCD is ready to give technical assistance to every willing state in the country that is ready to introduce school feeding programme in their states.
World Bank representative at the programme, Dr. Don Bundy, said school feeding programme should not be seen as a charity but a huge and sound investment targeted at improving lives and living condition of children from the poorest homes across the world.
He said countries across the globe feed their school children with an annual average of N75 million, adding that health, education, aid and trade across the world will be improved upon if school feeding programme is embraced and well positioned.