Additional five million students to benefit from FG’s homegrown school feeding programme ― Minister

• To give grant to additional one million traders, farmers

Federal Government on Monday expressed its readiness to expand its National Social Investment Programmes (NSIPs) with the view to accommodate additional five million primary school pupils, traders, graduates, farmers, among other vulnerable groups into the social safety net.

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq disclosed this in Abuja, at the opening ceremony of the 4th Annual Review of the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), during which the Abia State Focal Person on National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, Mr Chinenye Nwaogu, described the recruitment process of cooks as transparent.

“Since the programmes were transferred to the ministry, we have had continuous engagements with all state programme officials and have assigned desk officers to each of the clusters within the ministry, whom you have been liaising with for many months.

“We have continued to engage and collaborate with state governors on the implementation of the programmes. The ministry is also working with federal and state MDAs, INGOs and NGOs to evolve policies that would support the institutionalisation of the social investment programs in the nation.

“We have restructured the GEEP program and other NSIPs to align them with our mandate of providing fair focused social inclusion programmes to the vulnerable in Nigeria.

“Furthermore, the FCT has been included in the school feeding programme, while Kwara State is set to commence feeding in a few months time. The NHGSFP will soon launch a capacity building exercise for vendors and enumeration of all beneficiaries on the programme.

“Plans have been concluded for the exit and transition of the N-Power Batch A & B through the creation of the NEXIT portal, which would allow those who choose, to sign up to access other government empowerment opportunities.

“A beneficiary management system for the NSIPs is expected to be deployed in 2021, which would have the capacity to manage payments, address grievances and improve the dissemination of information.

“Additionally, you are aware that Mr President has approved the expansion of the NSIPs, as part of his vision to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years. Thus the NHGSFP is to reach an additional five million pupils including children in non-conventional educational settings.

“The N-Power programme is to create jobs for a total of one million beneficiaries, while the GEEP program will provide loans to an additional one million traders, farmers and market people.

“The social register is also being expanded to accommodate an additional one million households. We have also launched the rural women grant, which will reach women in 36 States of the Federation and the FCT.

“As part of the Economic Sustainability Plan, the Shock Responsive Social Register is to be launched, which would provide grants funds to one million identified vulnerable persons in urban areas.

“We have also successfully created and operationalized the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities to better manage the needs of our comrades who have special needs,” she stressed.

The minister expressed the resolve of the present administration towards ensuring that “vulnerable Nigerians are brought into the Federal Government’s social protection umbrella which seeks to support, empower and level the playing field so that they are better equipped to handle economic and social shocks while contributing their quota to society and to the betterment of our great nation.

“The National Home Grown School Feeding Programme is an important intervention because of the multiple wins it is capable of delivering. It is a vehicle for reducing hunger, promoting educational gains, health status improvement and economic stimulation. Such programmes are recognized as positive indicators for countries who are on track to achieve sustainable development.

“The long term benefits to our children and the future of the nation cannot be overemphasized. Thus we must resolve to remain steadfast in ensuring that this program reaches its objective and improves the lives of its beneficiaries,” she noted.

‘Schoolfeeding boosted public school enrolment from about 300,000 to 6000,000 in Abia’

Speaking exclusively with Tribune Online, Special Adviser on Social Investment & Intergovernmental Affairs to Abia State Governor, Mr Chinenye Nwaogu, applauded the implementation of the National Home Grown School Feeding programme in Abuja State.

Mr Nwaogu who doubles as National Secretary of Focal Persons Forum disclosed that the Abia State Government which rolled out the school feeding programme ahead of Federal Government’s scheme, currently feeds pupils from primary 4 to primary 6, while Federal Government’s Homegrown School Feeding Programme focused on pupils from Primary 1 to 3.

He said: “It’s one of the most successful programmes of the President Buhari’s administration that addresses challenges faced by pupils in primary schools who come from very poor and vulnerable households, who before now, many of them come to schools without food and it affects their participation in the learning activities.

“So this activity is for us to look at the programme in perspective, review the challenges the programme is facing; introduce new mechanisms to make the programme more effective, more impactful; enhance the efficiency of the programme and expand the programme to include more beneficiaries.”

While speaking on the mechanism, put in place for monitoring and evaluation of the homegrown school feeding programme vis-a-vis criticism trailing the identity of the beneficiaries of the scheme, Mr Nwaogu said: “Well for this programme, that may not apply for the homegrown school feeding programme because the pupils that are being fed are pupils in public primary schools, they are all over the country.

“The people that provide the meals come from communities where the schools are located, they must be known to the community members and the cooks receive the money directly from the Federal Government, through their bank accounts, so they are properly known.

“The recruitment process is so transparently done. Normally, it’s advertised in the State and all the key stakeholders, traditional rulers, community heads, women groups, those that work within the education value chain at the state level are all involved in the recruiting the cooks who provide these meals.

“You know the governor of Abia State had earlier launched this programme before the Federal Government expanded the programme to us. So in Abia, we are feeding from Primary 1 to 6. The Federal Government feeds from Primary 1 to 3, Abia is feeding from Primary 4 to 6 because of the understanding we have around this programme. We believe this programme has reverse enrolment from private school to public school.

“It has also expanded our enrolment, we started with a little below 300,000 pupils but now we are close to 600,000. Now children know that there’s a meal waiting for them when they arrive at schools. It has also improved learning outcomes, improve nutritional indices. Of course, it also impacted positively on those who deal in agricultural products because it’s called homegrown school feeding, all of the things in the menu are sourced locally from the State.

“Rice growers, beans growers, yam growers, egg producers, potato producers in Abia are all part of the supply chain of this programme; so we no longer have issues of their products rotting away on the shelves, they are all aggregated and funnelled into this programme ad so it’s a win-win for everyone,” Mr Nwaogu affirmed.

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