By; Sunday Ode, Abuja.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday presided over a meeting of stakeholders to review the strategy for the nationwide implementation of the national feeding programmes for primary schools.
Tagged National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, the scheme will affect not less than 5.5 million Nigerians in the first year of its operation which is expected to roll out soon in several states of the federation.
The scheme is part of the N500 billion social investment plans of the Buhari administration.
The strategic plans runs until 2020 and forms the cornerstone of the feeding programme which when fully operational would provide a nutritious hot meal a day, procured from local farmers, to over 24 million primary school children in the country.
The federal government according to information on the scheme, is working in partnership with states and local communities as well as technical partner – UK’s Imperial College, London’s Partnership for Child Development (PCD)-for the successful implementation and nationwide programme.
Only Osun and Kaduna states are implementing the school feeding programme out of the nation’s 36 states at the moment.
In a keynote address presented at the stakeholders forum, the Vice President described the programme as “a victory from the point of view that the inalienable right to life confirmed in the Nigerian constitution is meaningless in the society if a large number are poor, if government does not invest significantly in getting people out of poverty and addressing the health and education issues of children and other vulnerable groups.”
He explained that the social intervention programme is not a welfare scheme, which merely gives handouts to the poor; rather, the programmes have to pass through stringent tests of their direct economic benefits to the target groups and the economy as a whole, especially in terms of job creation.
Accordingly, he pointed out that the strategy sets out simply how the federal, state and local governments are to work together to deliver the primary objectives of the programme; namely, the feeding of the children in the primary schools with healthy nutritious meals prepared from local agricultural produce, cooked and served by food vendors and cooked in the local communities where the schools are located.
“The ultimate objectives are bringing real change to the lives of 20 million children, creating the multiplier effect on local economies in communities where these schools are located by boosting agriculture, entrepreneurship and employment for Emphasis.
“The programme has four main benefits: it will improve school enrolment, and completion and curb the current dropout rates from primary schools estimated at 30 percent and thereby also reduce child labour.
“It will improve child nutrition and health. As a result of poverty, many children have poor nutrition and worrying health status.
“It will also increase local agricultural production and provide structural demand for agricultural produce and thus create local economies that have a ready-made market for their produce and guarantee profit.
“It will also create jobs that will lift families over the poverty line into the brighter future,” he said on the objectives of the scheme.
Osinbajo also pointed out that the strategy plan will only work if there is cooperation between the federal state and local governments, adding that “These plans must have specific community implications.”
The programme, he noted,”is called home grown feeding for the reason that it must be owned by the people for whom it has been designed. The federal government has taken the responsibility to provide the part funding and also secured sound technical support.”
The Vice President also presented the national coordinating team of the feeding programme which included governors of Kaduna, Osun, Oyo, Borno and the representative of PCD, among others.
By; Sunday Ode, Abuja.