School Feeding Programme: Cross River pupils ask for daily feeding
Seven year old Francis Patrick and Grace Nyong, six years, both in primary 3 in Preparatory International School Calabar and Emem Effiom of Holy Trinity Schools Calabar have called for regular feeding to be provided for school pupils under the Federal Government School Feeding Programme in their schools.
Speaking in their separate class rooms yesterday when representatives from the School Feeding Programme (SFP) in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and disasters management, visited them and witnessed the feeding programme, the students expressed appreciation to the President of Nigeria for the programme but noted that the meals supplied them are small and not regular.
Francis and Grace spoke on behalf of others in their separate classes and schools.
“We thank the President for the jelof rice but we want more. They don’t come every day or every week. The food is very small. The food makes us happy when we are on break. Some of my friends and classmates don’t come with biscuits so the foods help us. We need the food daily”, little Francis said.
Food Vendors contracted to supply cooked foods to the school children explained the challenges that made the food supply irregular and small in quantity as the students said.
“High costs of food items in the market is a common knowledge”, they said, adding that the money allocated can no longer purchase enough and quality food items for the numbers of schools and children allocated to them.
Mrs Galadima Saida a Vendor said she handles class three of over 30 children ages between 6 and 9 in the same school.
“I started to supply foods in May 2017 when the Government initiative started in the state. However the N70 per child is no longer sufficient going by the hyperinflation prevalent in the markets. There is dire need for the amount given to us to be increase to tally with the economic situation.
“In Cross River, our money allocated to us does not come as usual. From 2020, some months we receive payments once or twice per term whereas it supposed to be monthly so as to feed the children daily. So in this scenario how can we cope?”
The deputy Head Teacher of Preparatory International School, Lady Esther Afia corroborated the information from the students saying that several times the vendors would come with measurable quantities of foods to the little children.
She called for increased funding, so that the vendors can be able to buy larger quantities of food items and prepare quality and hygienic foods for the Children.
She disclosed that “there are more than 700 students in my school that benefit from the school feeding programme. I would say that the foods help the students somehow. But I must stress that the quantities have drastically reduced in recent times. I supposed this is due to the high costs of food items in the markets. Government should please increase the funding to help the vendors improve the quality and quantity of the foods.”
Programme manager of the SFP in the state, Gabriel Okulaja said “The programme is going through transitions. We are embarking on enumeration of data, schools, vendors etc to enable us improve funding. The federal government is still passionate about it. Currently, we have 286,511 children across 1000 schools in the state participating. We are yet to cover all schools. More will be captured in the next phase of the programme.
“There are 433 cooks, 18 bakeries, 18 farms involved and over 5000 crates of eggs are used per feeding. I think this is good somehow for the local economy even though we couldn’t handle it during the COVID-19 periods in 2020.”.
Mrs Elizabeth Odu from the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Abuja led the team to inspect the programme in Cross River State.