By Chimezie Godfrey
The Federal Government has launched the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme in Bayelsa State, which is aimed at increasing enrollment of pupils in primary schools in the state.
The programme was launched by the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, on 25th May, 2023, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
The Minister who was represented by the Director Legal Services of the Ministry, Barrister Garba Haganawega, stated that the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) is one of the clusters under the Federal Government National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) aimed at providing one free nutritious meal a day to pupils of primary 1-3 in public primary schools nationwide.
She said globally, School Feeding Programs are increasingly being recognized as critical social protection interventions since they benefit vulnerable groups including children, their families, and communities.
In Nigeria, the NHGSFP is a safety net for over 10 million children across thousands of communities and a lifeline for income generation for thousands of people.
The Minister disclosed that the key objectives of the NHGSFP are to increase school enrolment, attendance and retention, improve the nutritional and health status of school children, job creation by stimulating local agricultural production and local economy, provide empowerment opportunities for the cooks, thereby contributing to the promotion of food security for vulnerable households in Nigeria.
Farouq further revealed that, with the aim to strengthen, sustain and scale up the programme to 13 million beneficiaries by 2023 which is geared towards contributing to the vision of Mr. President to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030 having previously onboarded 35 States and FCT.
She informed that, Bayelsa State having fulfilled the conditions for onboarding unto the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, and signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), is ready to onboard the programme, stating that the state is joining the programme with a total number of 59,113 Pupils in 599 schools and 1,217 cooks across the 8 LGAs.
She said the Ministry has provided 59,113 feeding utensils for the use of pupils on the program in Bayelsa State, in order to ensure that these free school meals are being provided under hygienic and favourable conditions,
The Minister appealed for the good utilisation of the items for the betterment and benefit of the children.
She announced that with the onboarding of Bayelsa state into the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme has now fully covered 36 States and the FCT.
She assured quality service delivery of the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme in the state.
In his remark the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, His Excellency Senator Douye Diri, who was represented by the State Commissioner for Education, Dr. Gentle E. Emelah, said the programme came at a time the current administration is transiting, but appreciated the President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the NSIP Act to be an agency for continuity of the programme.
Dr Emelah disclosed that the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme will improve the school enrollment in the state.
In his votes of thanks the National Social Investment Programme’s Focal Person of the state, Honourable Emmanuel Benson, thanked the Federal government for its humanitarian interventions, and he also warmly appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari and the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development for launching the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme in the state.
In his goodwill message the State Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Johnson E. Heefor, appreciated the federal government for making the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme a reality in the State, stating that the programme is long overdue.
The high points of the event were presentations of letters of engagement to the cooks as well as cooking utensils to the representative of the Governor and the State Focal Person.
In attendance were representatives of the Director General National Orientation Agency, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCD), as well as primary 1-3 students of some schools, royal fathers and other stakeholders in the school feeding programme.