Stakeholders drawn from the ministry of education and education districts, ministry of health, agriculture, research institutes, women’s affairs, as well as non-governmental organisations recently converged on the Combo Hall, LTV Complex, Ikeja for a two-day workshop on the FGN-a-meal-a-day home grown school feeding programme, designed to reduce hunger and malnutrition among school children and enhance the achievement of Universal Basic Education in the country.
Earlier in her remarks, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Oluranti Adebule, stressed the need to domesticate the school feeding programme, while acting locally and taking into cognizance the staple foods of the locality, nutritional value of meals, logistics, mode of selection of vendors, orientation, tradition and culture of the people.
Adebule, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Adeshina Odeyemi, regretted that most Nigerian school children are missing out on a healthy start in life as a result of their background, adding that every Nigerian child deserves the same healthy start as children born in Asia, America and Europe.
She described the school feeding programme as a veritable way of raising the country’s literacy level, adding, “an educated society, you all will agree with me, is easier to govern and manage because of the awareness of the citizens of their rights and obligations to and from the society. The resultant effect is that most of our social maladies will reduce greatly.”
Adebule affirmed that the federal government’s free meal would also encourage the cooperation of parents and guardians towards the success of education in Nigeria.
According to her, the introduction of the scheme is expected to create 1.14 million new jobs; increase food production by up to 530,000 metric tonnes per annum, as well as attract fresh investments up to N980 billion.
“The improvement in our food growth for self-sufficiency and food security will receive a boost as there will be ready market for their products. The current rice production revolution is a testimony. In fact, it is long overdue in a poverty stricken country like ours where many children of school age can barely take three square meals daily.
“Millions of school children in Asia, Europe and the Americas also enjoy school meals where their governments promote these policies. Don’t be deceived by nay-sayers’ position that the country’s population is too huge for the successful implementation of this programme. Far from it, even countries with bigger populations than Nigeria implement school meal policies.”
The National Programme Manager, Mrs. Abimbola Adesanmi, said it intends to see Lagos implement the programme to allow the students to benefit; get enrolled and attend schools regularly that will encourage local production and market, as well as empower the women group to be able to prepare food for the children, adding that a model should be designed in such a way that will enhance the economy of the state.
“Lagos has its own strength and weakness, what we want to do is to be able to design a model in what Lagos State sees itself becoming with the programme. The economic challenges has to do with different sectors, we are looking at improving the education sector first, let the children go to school to learn, but basically, we are also looking at the agricultural sector. What we plant is what we are going to eat. The moment we have a lot of people planting, then we will have enough market value at a reduced cost.
“So it is a long-term goal and also a medium-term one because it will allow us to encourage a lot of people to have jobs along the value chain. Jobs that will improve processing, storage and warehousing; they will all have jobs because of this programme and when it comes to increasing production, whatever we sell to the school feeding programme is marketed, exported and used for other purposes and even processed for other things to be utilised by other countries. On the long-term, it will help us to revive our economy. The advantages over ride what the disadvantages are.”
She said the programme will be for public schools and would start from primary one to three and gradually scaled up from primary four to six.
“That is the plan for the programme; it is going to be federal, state, private sector, community and all our stakeholders driven.”
On the sustainability of the programme, Adesanmi said, “the policy at the federal level is an overacting policy that allows the state to see the need and develop a law that will enshrine the programme within the state. If the programme does not benefit the state, there is no need to implement the programme to get funds. The programme we are bringing in is to encourage states to see the benefits and tap into the benefits and create more jobs for the populace, bring children to school and encourage them to stay there and help our farmers have a ready market.
“We are talking about people selling something. So if they have to sell eggs to 500,000 pupils in a day aside what people will eat, it means more people will have to go into egg production that means the sustainability in the governance, seeing the need for the programme and making sure that it is sustained.”