The programme had been implemented in some northern states before the current administration took office. But we have seen some flaws in its execution. I remember what happened in a state in the North-West, where some principals and teachers in charge of supervising the cooking (of food) allegedly made away with oranges and eggs meant for pupils. The government may have good intentions, but what about those implementing the programme? There is corruption in the system and it has permeated every facet of society. I think we just have to wait and see.
I suggest that an independent body should be engaged to handle the cooking and distribution of food to benefitting schools. This is because if you engage the staff of benefitting schools, the tendency for corruption will be high.
Government should also have an independent committee of its officials to monitor activities in these schools during the distribution period. The committee should visit the schools unannounced to assess the quality and quantity of food to determine if it is commensurate with the agreement reached with the contractor.
In the event that government cannot rely on contractors to do the job, it should take disciplinary action against teachers and principals who err to serve as a deterrent to others. •Augustine Agbi (Ex-ASUP Chairman, Institute of Management and Technology, Usen)
It is a very laudable programme. But is the Federal Government sustaining the payment of salaries? If government is not able to pay workers’ salaries regularly, it should not dabble into things that it cannot sustain. Everybody knows the situation of the economy; Nigeria is more or less a monocultural economy. We rely too much on oil and we see the price of oil in the international market crumbling everyday and people are looking for alternative sources of energy. Knowing very well that the source of our income is no longer reliable, the Federal Government should not go into a programme it lacks the capacity to sustain. I do not see why they should go into the programme because I am not sure those in government have adequate information about the number of children in public and private schools. Without these figures, I wonder how the Federal Government can sustain this programme. It is easier to start something than to sustain it. Without accurate statistics and a not too dependable source of regular income, it will be difficult, if not impossible; to sustain this kind of programme.
It is not an entirely new programme. When we were in primary school during the civil war, government was feeding us. They were giving us milk, wheat and other items, the situation in Nigeria now is like a war situation. We are in a crisis and parents are not having stable incomes, their salaries are not being paid as and when due and they are not getting money on a regular basis.
If government wants to embark on the school feeding programme, it should do it for every school child. It should extend the programme to children in both public and private schools. Government should not only focus on children in public schools, it should include all children and take care of all of them. It should also be done transparently so that everyone will know for example, that each child is entitled to say a N50 meal per day.
One may ask again, does government have all the information about the number of schoolchildren for it to know what amount it will spend? If it has not done that, it should do it so that everybody will know that children of so and so ages are entitled to benefit. For instance, let’s say N50 per meal per day multiplied by the number of days children will spend in schools. But if it is going to be a one-sided programme, it will not be fair to our children.
It is also important to point out that a reasonable parent will not be interested in someone else feeding his or her children. As a father and a stakeholder, I think it is better they offer quality education than give the children haphazard education only to give them food. Those in government should use the money they want to spend on the feeding programme to buy the necessary materials that will give the children better education. •Mallam Raji Mohammed (Ex-Commissioner of Education, Kwara State)
I do not think the free feeding programme is sustainable because it will be abused. I say this because we all know what is happening in the country at the moment. We have seen the high level of corruption among public servants and there is the likelihood that people will divert the funds meant for the programmme. At the end of the day, pupils may end up being underfed and the programme rendered useless. People will definitely think about corruption down the line and the right kind of feeding might not be provided. The quality of food may fall below the expected standard because people will want to make money out of it. I will prefer that they channel the money to provide a scholarship scheme that will be visible. The money could be channeled to free education instead of feeding. Of what use is it for parents to pay school fees, buy books and at the end you say, there is one free feeding programme? •Byron Caiafas (Educationist)
It is sustainable. Where there is a will, there is a way. It is just for government to do the needful by adequately planning for it. There is nothing the government is determined to do that it cannot do. The only problem we have is that, in Nigeria, we have beautiful plans, but when it comes to implementation there is always a challenge. I think that this one is realisable and sustainable; we just need to deal with the Nigerian mentality that often stands in the way of implementing policies and programmes that will be beneficial to our people.
You and I know that, it is not government that will come out to implement this policy. There are people that will be saddled with the responsibility of doing it. These people can bungle it if there is no proper supervision, that is where government and government agencies come in. Civil society too has a big role to play in making sure that this policy succeeds by partnering government to ensure that such programmes are not sabotaged. •Olawale Okunniyi (Public Affairs Analyst)
I think the school feeding programme of the Federal Government is sustainable. But they must be ready to make it their priority otherwise, it won’t go far.
There is nothing stopping the Federal Government from sustaining it because it has many advantages; it will increase enrolment. Some children will be encouraged to come to school because they are sure of getting one meal a day.
Osun State was one of the 12 states used as pilot states for the school feeding programme. Osun State, under Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, was the second state to start and it was quite successful. When Aregbesola took over, it was stopped for a while before it was started again and it has been on in Osun State since then.
So, if it is sustainable in Osun State since 2009, it should be sustainable in Nigeria and there is no excuse good enough to stop it.
We recorded more enrolments because of the programme and we ran it for about three years before Aregbesola took over. The Federal Government should even encourage states to support it.
It is a programme that should be well funded by the Federal Government. It is just unfortunate that government at all levels in Nigeria are unserious most times. Government can sustain the programme by assisting farmers to produce most of the food needed to feed these pupils. This will encourage the farmers, it will boost the economy and it will keep the programme running. In Osun State, eggs used for school feeding are got from Tuns Farms and other farms and this alone encourages some people to go into poultry farming. •Adejare Bello (A former Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly)
- Compiled by: Success Nwogu, Femi Makinde, Mudiaga Affe and Alexander Okere
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