The N500billion school feeding program and so many questions

by on March 1, 2016

Education is the key component in school feeding programs and global development because an educated person has an increased amount of opportunities in life, earns more money and has higher standard of living than an uneducated individual.

The importance of this social program cannot be overemphasized as it would enable improvement of students’ enrollment and retention.  Also, local farmers will benefit from this social program as it will create a lot of direct and indirect jobs.

According to World Bank, the program is tagged “Social safety net” and it is expected to improve the local people’s livelihood provided capitalists, monopoly and government allies do not hijack the program and fashion it to their selfish interests.

The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe informed that 30 million Nigerian children will get a litre of milk per day. This means that 30million litres of milk per day expected to be milked from our prominent “White Fulani” breed; a low milking cow in Nigeria. The question to be asked is do we even have that number of dairy cow that will give us that amount a day? Are we expecting a breakthrough from our moribund dairy industry?

Looking at one of the pilot state, chicken were used to feed pupils and if the Federal Government adopt this program nationally it will astronomically increase our  daily demand for chicken consumption which we cannot even meet up locally. Are our farmers ready and empowered to meet up with these challenges ahead? Or are we going to start importing chicken and milk to feed our kids.

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After the food what’s next? It is obvious that we can’t build something on nothing and as such we need to clearly spell out the aims and objective of this program, or is it  just to propel political propaganda or to improve academic enrollment and standard of living of these school pupils? It is one thing to provide meals for school pupils if we want to improve academic performace and lure more pupils to school. What about even the tutors for these pupils. Will it just suffice to only motivate the students but not even their tutors? The case of Osun State is a typical example where in 2015, pupils were eating but the teachers could not teach because government cannot provide running grants to the school. These schools could not afford basic instructional materials to the point of not writing term examination because government cannot afford to print question papers which led to students being promoted on attendance but not by academic performance and assessment. Are we going to feed pupils without quality teachers, low-motivated teachers that were under-paid or even not paid at all? It is one thing to get pupils to school, and it ios another thing to get teachers to teach these pupils. There will be no point getting students to school and motivation them to stay while there are no teachers to teach.

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Do these pupils even have chairs to sit while eating the meal not to talk of learning? Are we going to feed our kids while they don’t have library to feed their brain? An average Chinese kid can write a programming code while our kids do not even know what computer is.  World food program (WFP) estimated $3.2billion USD to feed 66 million kids a year $50 per year per kid. Is it possible to align this international standard figure with ours?

The following questions should pique our interest:

Do we have the strategy to sustain the program ?

Do we have a national policy frame work?

Do we have stable funding and budgeting for the purpose despite massive drop in oil price?

Is the program needs-based and cost -effective with quality?

Is there any strong institutional arrangement for implementation, monitoring, and accountability?

Is there any strategy for local sourcing of food product with local farmers?

Is there any strong partnership with stakeholders?

Will there be inter sector coordination and community participation

School feeding program are very context-specific and each community’s program must be altered based on the demographics, geography and other pattern within and outside the school. We need to determine if the school feeding is the most effective program to target the needy children.
We also need to define program goals and outcome, select type of food to serve, determine food procurement method to avoid monopoly and some cabals hijacking the program, plan for management, implementation, monitoring/ assessment within the various schools.

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The government should take a cue and learn from the flaws of the pilot state. We need to employ more qualified teachers and pair them up with more experienced teachers in order to get an effective synchronization of the schooling system, so as to meet the sole objective of the feeding programme.

The government should also equip schools with modern infrastructures, like construction of ICT center with e-library in, more chairs and tables and conducive learning environment for pupils to learn.

Government should also identify the reforms that have the highest impact on student achievement, fund them adequately and eliminate programs that do not produce results. A responsible government must weigh the costs and benefits of impactful policies and make decisions based on research and analysis, not just on logic alone.

Sent in from Femi Adesola, a seasoned livestock and political commentator




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