Over N118billion has been disbursed so far on the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSF), but there are still some hitches in some states, such as delayed payment to suppliers and cooks, and inaccessibility of some schools. There is also the threat of a hijack by politicians and allegations of corruption. BISI OLADELE, Ibadan; FAITH YAHAYA, Abuja, ERNEST NWOKOLO, Abeokuta; ADAMU SULEIMAN, Sokoto; CHRIS OJI, Enugu; KOLADE ADEYEMI, Kano; OZIEGBE OKOEKI; ELO EDREMODA, Warri; ROSEMARY NWISI, Port Harcourt; NSA GILL, Calabar; ABDULGAFAR ALABELEWE, Kaduna; ADESOJI ADENIYI, Osogbo; SUNNY NWANKWO, Umuahia; BASSEY ANTHONY, Uyo; YUSUFU IDEGU, Jos; OSAGIE OTABOR, Benin, and RASAQ IBRAHIM, Ado-Ekiti report
Groups of excited school kids queuing to be served a delicious meal for the day have become common occurrences in most public primary schools across the country, thanks to the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSF).
There is a boost for those who supply agricultural products (known as aggregators); jobs have been created for thousands of women who work as cooks.
The Federal Government has disbursed over N118billion on the programme since inception.
But, despite the huge financial commitment, the programme has not been without hitches in some states, according to findings by our correspondents.
There are complaints about poor food quality, delayed payments to suppliers and cooks, and hijack of the programme by politicians.
The Federal Government established the National Social Investments Programmes (NSIP) in 2016 to tackle poverty and hunger.
The suite of programmes under the NSIP, among which is the HGSF), focuses on ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations, including children, youth and women.
The HGSF aims to deliver school feeding to young children in a bid to increase school enrollment.
It aims to reduce the incidence of malnutrition, especially among the poor and those ordinarily unable to eat a meal-a-day.
The programme is designed to empower community women as cooks and to support small farmers, all in a bid to stimulate economic growth.
The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development said the HGSF programme is ongoing in 35 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), except Bayelsa and Kwara states.
Over 8.6 million pupils in over 56,000 public primary schools are being fed.
The FCT is the latest to join the programme, with about 73,000 pupils in 402 schools.
In the FCT alone, meals are prepared by 796 cooks for pupils between primaries one to three.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Farouq said: “The National Home Grown School feeding programme is focused on ensuring one nutritious, balanced meal each school day to pupils in classes 1 to 3 in public Primary Schools across the country.
“The programme is designed to increase enrolment rates by mopping up the huge numbers of out-of-school children in Nigeria while tackling school-age malnutrition.
“As part of the value chain, the programme also empowers the cooks and provides a sustainable income for smallholder farmers, thereby stimulating growth and productivity around the communities in the States.”
Farouq said over N118billion has been disbursed to the programme since inception.
“The programme is currently benefiting over 8.6 million pupils in over 56,000 public primary schools in 35 states.
“At least 107,670 cooks have been empowered and over 200,000 smallholder farmers linked to the programme by supplying locally-sourced ingredients to improve the nutrition and quality of meals for our children.
“In the FCT alone, 73,060 pupils are being fed in 402 schools by 796 women.
“With over 8.4 million eggs and 94 metric tons of fish consumed weekly, the schools within the programme provide local farmers with a predictable market for their products, leading to a stable income, more investments, and higher productivity.
“The children enjoy healthy, diversified food; which makes it more likely that they will stay in school, perform better and improve their adult job prospects”, she said.
On why the programme was yet to begin in Bayelsa and Kwara states, she said: “Bayelsa wanted to feed secondary school students, which is outside the purview of the programme and Kwara was not quite ready.
“However, both states have provided dates for training which is the first step in commencing Home Grown School Feeding at the state level.”
Uncertainty in Ogun
There is little evidence to show that the programme is being sustained in Ogun.
The programme was launched by the Ibikunle Amosun administration on January 30, 2017, simultaneously in 874 schools in Ogun after eight months of preparation.
A total of 2,968 women were enrolled and trained as food vendors, with 1,381 of them in the first phase. They were expected to cater to 1,564 primary schools.
Several items were distributed to them, including white aprons, white caps, Adire gowns, industrial coal pot, medium warmer (55cl), small warmer (30cl), big cooking spoons, long turning sticks, 100 litres drums, iron pails, iron pots, aluminium water basins, water bowls, aluminium sieves, kitchen knives, amongst others.
It was projected that as more pupils and schools get enrolled into the scheme, additional vendors would be engaged.
At St. Paul’s Demonstration School, Onikolobo area of Abeokuta where Governor Ibikunle Amosun, represented by his Deputy, Yetunde Onanuga, kick-started it, the pupils were served with portage, vegetables and fish with table water.
When The Nation visited a few of the schools in Abeokuta, the state capital, where the programme was being implemented, it was observed that the protein value and vendor morale gradually ebbed.
When our reporter visited Idi-Aba Primary School, which had two wings, only three of four vendors assigned to a wing came regularly to feed the pupils.
The fourth, it was learnt, stopped about six months earlier because she was not paid.
It was pitiable to see the pupils, who the absent vendor was supposed to feed, watch their mates eat.
Our reporter also observed that the quantity of a meal of rice and beans served the pupils was small.
Teachers in the school said they had complained about the food quality but only two vendors improved the protein content.
Two of the vendors served rice with stew but one of them served soup (Omi Obe), which our reporter learnt was not supposed to be part of the menu.
The vendors, however, said they were helpless regarding the meals and protein content due to the amount paid them.
According to them, if the government wanted the situation to change, there should be an upward review of their pay.
They added that the meat was supplied by agents of the state government.
A vendor, Mrs Omole Imoleayo, had lamented the meagre size of the protein served the pupils, who named the meat “sim card” due to its size.
Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Femi Ogunbanwo, said the programme would soon resume under the new administration.
Progress in Sokoto
There has been a steady implementation of the programme in Sokoto since it began on October 2, 2018.
The State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) coordinates the programme through a technical committee.
A technical officer, Mustapha Umar Abdullahi, said no fewer than 1,881 schools and 348,000 pupils have benefitted, with food vendors numbering 2,092.
He said about 500 schools were yet to be accommodated in the programme.
“We have a daily feeding roster from Monday to Friday,” he said.
It is as follows: Monday, bean cake and Pap; Tuesday, boiled sweet potato/egg sauce; Wednesday, jollof rice/leaf/beef; Thursday, rice, beans and stew and Friday, yoghurt biscuit/bread.
Abdullahi noted that the programme has significantly encouraged enrolment and school attendance.
“Our survey and record show that there has been over 40 per cent remarkable increase in enrolment. The programme has enhanced performance and makes the learning process easier,” he said.
Abdullahi expressed concern about some pupils who return home after eating rather than continuing with their studies.
“I will use this opportunity to call on parents of such pupils not to allow their children to return home. They must send them back to school,” he said.
The programme has been successful in Enugu State where no fewer than 194,707 pupils are fed.
Programme Manager, Mr Ifeanyi Onah, said the programme had employed 2,230 persons as cooks.
According to him, the programme has been running hitch-free in the state.
Onah praised Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for ensuring that Enugu was among the states to benefit in the first batch of the scheme.
“The programme is currently running smoothly and without any hitch in the state,’’ he said.
Two million pupils fed in Kano
Over two million pupils in Kano State primary schools across the 44 Local Government Areas are benefitting from the programme.
The Community Re-orientation Council (CRC) is involved in the school feeding programme.
Its chairman, Mallam Ya’u Abdullahi Yanshana, said 13,000 vendors, mostly women across the 44 LGAs, were engaged as cooks, egg suppliers, and other commodity providers.
He said the council also designed a menu to conform with the programme, which requires a balanced diet.
On challenges, he said no more than 9,000 cooks were being paid regularly.
He added that with the free and compulsory education introduced by the state, the number of pupils may rise to three million.
Pupils in 774 schools fed in Lagos
The programme is ongoing in about 774 primary schools in Lagos out of 1016 primary schools in the state, with 242 schools yet to be covered.
Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board LASUBEB) Chairman Wahab Alawiye-King said among the 242 schools yet to be reached are those in the riverine areas.
“We are having some hitches when it comes to getting to riverine areas, so we are making every effort to ensure they get all the necessary materials at the same time. This has to do with food, so we must be perfect with whatever we want to do,” he said.
According to him, vendors are always paid.
“We have about four major aggregators that would supply protein. We also have over 1,000 food vendors who provide the food in the classrooms.
“There is an inter-agency collaboration. We partner with the Ministry of Health to ensure that food is served in a hygienic environment.
“The Ministry of Agriculture assists us in choosing the aggregators and ensures that the food vendors are carefully selected,” Alawiye-King said.
He said since the programme was introduced, pupils come to school earlier while enrolment has increased.
The state government, the chairman, said has also provided water bottles for primaries one to three pupils in the state, numbering over 160,000.
He said 20 education secretaries ensure strict compliance with the programme’s rules, and gives daily reports on health and hygiene.
“While the Federal Government targets primaries one to three pupils, the state government’s complementary program is targeted at the Kindergarten and primaries 4-5,” Alawiye-King said.
Not very successful in Delta
The programme appears to be failing in Delta state.
At the Emadadja Primary School in Udu, the food brought by a caterer was not sufficient for a class.
It was learnt that two caterers were assigned to feed the designated classes, but one of them has not been turning up.
A young lady who was seen serving food said: “I came to supply on behalf of my madam. They (vendors) are supposed to be two. But it is only my madam that has been bringing food.
“The food I brought is only for one class. We rotate the feeding. That is how we have been doing it since the other woman does not come.”
A school head in one of the riverine communities in Warri South-West said the programme had been irregular since it was launched in 2017.
According to him, while the caterers are willing to do the job, they do not get paid regularly.
He revealed pupils were only fed for two weeks after resumption since the beginning of the second term.
“The last time they fed them was two weeks into resumption. Since then, they have not fed again.
“The school cannot complain when they (cooks) say money has not come. It applies to the whole local government, if not the state,” he said.
Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said officials of the Federal Government were in the best position to speak on the matter.
“It is the Federal Government you should talk to. It is their programme. Reach out to their officials to tell you what they are doing with it. I speak for the Delta State government, not the Federal Government,” Aniagwu said.
916 benefit in Rivers
The programme began in Rivers State last October in almost all the 916 public primary schools.
An HGSF Desk Officer in the state, Allwell Ihunda, said: “We started the feeding of primaries one to three pupils in public schools in Rivers on October 7, 2019, and has continued with the programme to date.
“Initially, we began with 85 per cent of schools in the state and later increased it. As at the last time we fed the children, about 96 per cent of the schools were captured.”
He said some of the food vendors had issues with their banks, which affected their payment, but that the hiccups would be cleared.
On the cost of a meal per child, he said N70 was not enough, especially in Rivers where the cost of living is high. He called for an upward review to at least N150.
“The Federal Government directed that no vendor should be allowed to feed more than 150 pupils, so, in some schools where the population is high, we assign two vendors,” he said.
Ihunda said the Federal Government was solely responsible for the programme in Rivers.
362,000 fed in Calabar
About 362, 000 children in 1,359 public schools in Cross River State, according to the programme coordinator Mr Gabriel Okulaja.
He said 3, 706 cooks are participating, with about 81 per cent of public schools covered.
On the benefits, he said: “It has increase enrolment because when we started in 2017, we started with about 117,000, then it increased to about 158,000 pupils.
“Some schools recorded 20 per cent increment while some recorded 30 per cent. For instance, in some schools in Ogoja, they recorded almost 100 per cent enrollment increment.”
Okulaja said headteachers are part of a monitoring unit that ensures that the meal is enough for each class.
“They are supposed to check the quality of the food and the types. We also have the school-based management committee , which is independent of us.
“The members ensure that in their different schools whatever the government is supposed to do is being done to ensure that the feeding goes on.
“The Federal government has independent monitors. Where vendors are found wanting, they are penalised. As I speak, we have a few reports on my table that we are going to deal with,” Okulaja said.
Our reporter found that state managers of the programme supply food items and condiments as vendors are not at liberty to source for them, which might have been cheaper.
Kaduna’s pioneering effort
The school feeding programme started in January 2016, ahead of the kick-off at the federal level.
Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i, who launched the programme at Aliyu Makama Primary School, said it would encourage enrolment and help eradicate illiteracy.
He explained that the Federal Government, through the Office of the Vice President, would reimburse the state.
Within the first eight months of the project, the state said about 1.8 million primary one to six pupils were fed.
Food vendors were recruited to cook for the pupils across about 4,000 primary schools.
The pupils were served moi-moi on Monday, rice and beans on Tuesdays, beans pottage on Wednesdays, jollof rice and egg on Thursdays, and juice and biscuits on Fridays.
However, the programme stopped after eight months due to delayed reimbursement by the Federal Government.
The Federal Government’s part of the programme has since taken off in the state under the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme (NHSFP).
No fewer than 1,069,140 primaries one to three pupils in 3,922 schools are being fed. As of May 2019, 12,376 cooks were engaged.
The programme’s Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Mr Olugbenga Oyeneyin, had in July 2019 supervised the distribution of aluminium bowls and spoons to 523,000 pupils in Kaduna.
Oyeneyin said over 2.4 million bowls and spoons were distributed across 32 states of the federation in the first phase, as part of efforts to ensure that the pupils were fed under hygienic conditions.
“The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme Office, Abuja, observed that the vendors were feeding the pupils in plates that were unhygienic.
“So, the Federal Government decided to step in to ensure that every child is fed in a hygienic condition through the procurement and distribution of the aluminium bowls and spoons,” he said.
Oyeneyin said that the items would be in the vendors’ custody.
Osun’s appraisal mechanism
Osun was among the 13 pilot states for the Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme when it started in 2006 by the Federal Government through the Universal Basic Education.
Formerly known as Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFP), it was rebranded to O’MEAL by the state in 2012.
Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, said the feeding programme initially designed for pupils of primaries one to three was extended to four.
According to her, what stands Osun out is its appraisal mechanism to ensure the standard.
She said: “The vendors are regularly trained to ensure high standard hygiene among them and to make sure they conform with recommended diet in preparing the meals. The vendors are subjected to test twice a year.
“So, the state does not only ensure that the food is healthily prepared, but that the vendors are healthy, free of communicable diseases.”
She added that the state always made funds available even when the Federal Government had not paid the state.
“Funds are supposed to be made available in advance for the cooks,” she said.
Egbemode said Osun provides uniforms, including apron, gowns and caps for the vendors free of charge.
The government facilitated interest-free loans from a commercial bank for the vendors to enable them to procure cooking utensils.
She said the state would pay the interest accrued on the loans, which are expected to be repaid by the vendors in 36 instalments.
Feeding ongoing in Abia schools
Abia was one of the states to introduce school feeding before the Federal Government officially launched it.
Pupils have been fed since 2016 in all the public primary schools across the 17 Local Government Areas.
Although initially for primaries one to three, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu directed that it be extended to other classes.
He said: “I cannot as a first son or elder brother take my younger one to school daily and you feed only him but expect me to remain calm, happy and keep coming to school enthusiastically.
“It will be demotivating, and the humane response from us was to take up the funding of the feeding of primaries four to six pupils to ensure family peace, equity and fairness.”
It was learnt that primary school enrolment increased from 150,000 in 2015 to over 600,000 last year, with additional 304 classroom blocks reportedly built. However, this claim was not verified.
It was learnt that Abia has engaged 5,300 cooks for the programme, but there are reports that the vendors did not cook for over a week recently due to lack of funds.
A source said: “This is not the first time it is happening. It has happened once or twice and the reason they gave when they eventually resumed was that they were being owed.”
Our reporter found that quality food was given to pupils in the cities compared to those in rural areas.
While those in the city got a whole egg each, it was learnt that one egg was divided among three or four children in the rural areas.
Mixed tales in Akwa Ibom
In Akwa Ibom, the programme is coordinated by the Dr. Godwin Akpan, who said that about 154,000 pupils are captured, which is a drop from 334,353 recorded last year.
He said: “Akwa Ibom has a total of 1,150 schools out of which we are currently feeding 1,105. Fifty-five schools are currently not feeding.
“Before now, we were feeding over 300,000 people but some time last year, the National Bureau of Statistics came here to do a headcount and that reduced the number drastically from 334,353 to 154,000.
“This also affected the number of schools that were under the programme because most schools that the headcount was conducted did not have cooks and such schools were not captured.
“As a state, we have protested and appealed to the Federal Government to send back the NBS to come and conduct a revalidation exercise but up till now, they have not done so.
“This is not going down well with our children and our cooks and the value chain we are supposed to achieve is not being achieved because we need to have over 2,000 cooks. After the headcount, we have 1,436 and that has affected the value chain”.
Findings also indicate that the programme has been hijacked by politicians who impose suppliers and coordinators.
One of the teachers of Lutheran Primary School, Urua Ikpa, Itu Local government Area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the programme as a failure.
He said: “The school feeding programme is a failure because I learnt that under normal circumstances the children are supposed to be fed from Monday to Friday, but unfortunately here there is nothing like that.
“Some days you see them twice in a week, and some weeks you don’t even see them at all.”
Over 500 food vendors in Akwa Ibom have protested alleged hijack of the scheme by politicians. They also accused government officials of diverting some funds meant for the programme.
Plateau feeds over 220,159
The SIP focal person, Dr Sumaiya Hamza, said 220,159 pupils in all the 17 LGAs were being fed.
Her words: “We ensure what we serve the pupils contain a balanced diet. On Monday we serve them yam porridge and watermelon. On Tuesday, it is Macaroni and banana. Wednesday, we give them food called Tom Brown made from Millet, Acha, sorghum etc, with orange.
“On Thursday we serve them boiled yam or boiled potatoes with tomato sauce with fruit. On a Friday we serve them biscuit a specially made for pupils and you can’t find its kind in the market. That biscuit contains all classes of food and is very filling.
“The school feeding has been of tremendous advantage because it has improved enrollment into public schools and has increased pupils concentration,” Hamza said.
15,679 fed in Edo
Over 15,679 pupils in 126 public primary schools in Edo State are being fed by the Federal government in the programme.
The state government implemented the programme in two LGAs: Orhionmwon and Uhunmwode.
To ensure its smooth operation, 170 caterers were engaged to cook for pupils in primaries one to six as against that of the Federal Government which caters for primaries one to three.
Following the launch in January 2019 by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo at Eyaen Primary School in Uhunmwode LGA, start-up kits were distributed to caterers two months later.
Edo State Focal Person for the scheme, Ms Osayuwamen Aladeshelu, told our reporter that the programme will be extended to other LGAs.
“The caterers have undergone training and a test. They have been taught food hygiene, food handling, and food portioning and product management.
“We have monitoring teams that evaluate them and ensure they comply with our standards,” she explained.
Hitches in Ekiti
The Ekiti State government said the movement of the SIP from the Office of the Vice President to the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development hampered the programme.
Commissioner for Information, Aare Muyiwa Olumilua, said the programme was suspended since the beginning of the second term of the 2019/2020 academic session due to the funding gap arising from the lacuna created in the programme supervision.
Olumilua said the programme was not cancelled, adding that before it was stopped, 75,020 pupils in all the public primary schools across the state were fed once daily with a balanced diet.
About 2,000 people were employed as vendors and equipped with the necessary tools to meet the feeding requirements of over 905 public primary schools in the state, he said.
“Ekiti had keyed into the feeding programme powered by the Federal Government since May last year. The state is very pragmatic and diligent in prosecuting the project the way it was set up to operate.
“But the truth of the matter is that we had a small lacuna. And that was due to the movement of the programme to a new ministry. That’s why there is a little funding gap which had resulted in some delay in the programme.
“Now that everything has been sorted out we are hopeful the programme will resume fully in no distant time, as soon as all necessary administrative works are completed,” he said.
Delayed vendor payment in Oyo
The programme is stalled in Oyo State as aggregators and food vendors are unable to render their services due to delay in receiving payment.
Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Olasunkanmi Olaleye, said the aggregators and vendors were usually paid ahead. The aggregators supply bread, eggs and meat; the vendors cook and serve the food.
He said the delay would soon be addressed as such issues do not last beyond 10 days.
According to Olaleye, 202,000 pupils in 2,203 schools are being fed across the state.
He said the state government, through heads of schools, monitors the quality of the food being served and the hygienic conditions.
Olaleye said apart from the slight payment delay, there had been no negative reports about the programme in the state.