The Home Grown Feeding Programme is boosting school enrolment across the country, a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, has revealed.
Stakeholders interviewed in the southern part of the country said the programme has also enhanced the rate of retention of pupils in schools and called for its sustenance.
In Ibadan, Aderonke Makanjuola, the Chairman of Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, said the home grown feeding programme had been impactful in the enrolment of pupils in public primary schools.
Mrs Makanjuola said that three months into the commencement of the programme there was a marginal increase in the enrolment of pupils in the participatory schools.
“The Home grown feeding programme has been impactful in Oyo State. I could remember when we had the opportunity to commence the programme early January 2017, three months after, pupils enrolment increased.
“As we are advancing in the programme, pupil’s enrolment kept increasing all over the state’s primary schools,” she said.
Mrs Makanjuola also said the state has a total of 2,409 primary schools, including nomadic schools.
According to her, the state currently has 383, 653 pupils in public primary school while the total number of primary school teachers is 21, 267.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun Commissioner for Education, Modupe Mujota, also said that the free meal programme for primary school pupils had improved enrolment.
Mrs Mujota described indigenes of the state people who give education top priority, adding that school enrolment had always been on the increase every year even before the commencement of the feeding programme.
She said it was therefore difficult to ascribe the increased number of school enrolment in 2018 to the school feeding programme, which commenced in 2017.
The commissioner, however, explained that the major benefit of the programme was reduction in absenteeism as the pupils often look forward to a hot meal.
She said the development had also led to improvement in the health status and academic performance of the pupils.
According to her, the programme commenced on January 31, 2017 in 874 of the 1, 554 public primary schools in the state.
She added that a total of 2,968 women were recruited as food vendors to provide lunch for the pupils daily.
Mrs Mujota said that the food were sourced locally and always subjected to thorough inspection before being served to ensure good hygiene.
In Osogbo, Fatai Kolawole, the Permanent Secretary of Osun Universal Basic Education Board, said that the school feeding programme in the state had increased enrolment and reduced absenteeism.
According to him, more than 382, 482 pupils were currently enrolled in public primary schools across the state.
Mr Kolawole said no fewer than 15,000 teachers work in the public primary schools in the state, adding that this was is in line with UNESCO standard of 25 pupils to a teacher.
The permanent secretary said with the availability of adequate infrastructure, experienced teachers and the free feeding programme, parents were now willing to enrol their wards in public schools.
Also speaking, Olubunmi Ayoola, the Director of Operations, Osun School Pupils Feeding Programme, said that the school feeding programme had helped in boosting enrolment of pupils in the state.
Mrs Ayoola said that more than 145,000 pupils from grade one to three, and 41,000 pupils on grade four were also being fed on a daily basis.
She said while the Federal Government was responsible for the feeding of grade one to three pupils, the state government was responsible for pupils in grade 4.
Mrs Ayoola said the school feeding programme had led to increased enrolment in public schools in the state.
“The Federal Government has been so helpful since the commencement of this programme in 2006.
“Since the commencement of the programme, enrolment in public primary schools had increased tremendously,’’ Mrs Ayoola said.
In Ilorin, Zainab Balogun, the Head of Research and Statistics Unit, Kwara Ministry of Education, said the state has no fewer than 1, 536 primary schools with a total enrolment of 201, 956 pupils.
She said that as at the last school census conducted in the 2015/2016 session, there were 1, 536 schools across the 16 local government areas of the state.
Mrs Balogun said there were more boys than girls in public primary schools with 128, 963 boys as against 117,105 girls.
He added that there were 13, 060 primary school teachers in the state made up of 5,229 males and 7,831females.
Mrs Balogun, however, said that implementation of school feeding programme was underway in the state.
“We have started taking steps to begin implementation of the feeding programme; forms and interviews are being conducted for the food vendors.
“Selection is ongoing, seminars and awareness have started and this cuts across the 16 local government areas,’’ she said.
Mrs Balogun argued that the school feeding programme would boost enrolment of pupils into primary schools in the state.
“It is going to boost enrolment as it has done in other states.
“The School Based Management Committee is working through awareness and enlightenment to ensure that the gap between the boys and girls enrolled is closed.
“The government is working to ensure that girls go back to school and we hope that the feeding programme encourages that also,’’ she said.
Meanwhile, a cross section of parents and teachers in Ilorin confirmed that the school feeding programme had not started in the state.
Kunle Oye, the Chairman of Parents Teachers Association of Gaa-Akanbi Primary School, Ilorin, said no pupil in Kwara had benefited from the free lunch initiative.
“We only read on the pages of newspapers and hear on the radio of the development by the Federal Government,’’ he said.
In Ekiti, enrolment of pupils in public primary schools has increased considerably, findings revealed.
Investigations at the Ministry of Education revealed that the number of public primary schools in the state rose from 711 in 2014 to 810 in 2017.
The enrolment of pupils in the schools also increased from 378, 000 in 2014 to 463,863 in 2017, with the teacher population rising from 19, 750 to 21, 000 within the period.
The rise in the number of primary school enrolment was as a result of certain innovations and strategies introduced by the present government in the state.
The Commissioner for Education, Jide Egunjobi, said the state used to record one of the lowest figure for enrolment before the advent of the present administration in 2014.
He attributed the development to incentives such as good learning environment, near-zero school fees as well as welfare package for teachers.
The school feeding programme, which could have further given enrolment a boost, had yet to fully take-off in the state.
Deputy Governor of Ekiti, Kolapo Olusola-Eleka, said Governor Ayo Fayose had approved the state’s participation in the programme.
He said a workshop for the take-off of the programme had already been held to sensitise residents and stakeholders on the school feeding programme.
“The feedback revealed the potentials of the programme to improve the nutrition status of the pupils, increase school enrolment and attendance, energise the local economy and empower certain segments of the population
“Above all, we also noted that it is in tandem with our stomach infrastructure policy.
“We have decided to set political differences aside and partner with the Federal Government for the benefit of our pupils.
“Our participation will be a boost to our efforts to restore the glory of education in our dear state,’’ he said.
A parent, Funmilayo Adeyanju, expressed delight at the decision of the state government to embrace the programme.
She noted that the programme had been embraced by 21 states, adding that it would improve the health and nutrition of children as well as local foods.
Another stakeholder, Dare Akindede, said the programme would no doubt enhance enrolment in primary schools.
The state Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Kayode Akosile, said the union was in support of any decision by the state government to ensure adequate welfare for teachers as well as boost enrolment and learning in schools.
Also, in the South-East, education stakeholders have attributed the increase in enrolment of school children to the Federal Government School Feeding Programme.
In Awka, Chinwe Iwuchukwu, the state Focal Person for the Programme said there was 18.3 per cent increase in enrolment.
She described the feeding programme as effective and one of the best in country without impediments.
“The programme started about a year ago and we started with about 104,000 pupils from primary one to primary three and at the moment there are about 123,000 pupils participating.
“The feeding is from Monday to Friday and we have rich menu, it is taking place in all the public primary schools in the 21 local government areas,” she said.
Also, Kate Omenugha, the state Commissioner for Education, said there was increase in the transfer of children from private schools to public schools in the state.
Mrs Omenugha, professor, who said there were 1,047 primary and 257 public secondary schools, said proprietors of private schools were already crying to the government for the loss of students to public schools.
“More children are moving from private schools to public schools and expectedly private schools operators are complaining that they are losing their pupils to government schools because they are being fed freely.
“Enrolment has been very impressive in recent times, there are a total 1,047 primary schools and 257 secondary schools in the state,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Anambra chapter, said there is shortage of teachers in the state that needed to be filled through massive recruitment to save the education system from collapse.
“We do not have enough teachers. I have used every opportunity to tell government to employ teachers to replace those that have left service due to retirement.
“Most classrooms are empty and even employing retired teachers on contract basis which is what has been happening lately cannot solve the problem.
“The manpower sufficiency level is low and the NUT is calling on government to take urgent steps to save the situation,” he said.
In Owerri, Gertrude Oduka, Imo State Commissioner for Education, attributed the increase in enrolment to the sustained feeding programme and free education policy of Governor Rochas Okoracha.
Mr Oduka disclosed that the governor had since 2011 sustained both pupils feeding and offer of stipend, which he said, boosted the enrolment.
“This wonderful initiative raised the consciousness of parents in Imo and I tell you that the era of sending children to street trading is gone in Imo,” he said.
Also, the Chairman of SUBEB, Nkemjika Ibe, said there were 720 primary schools in the 27 local governments with an average of 600 pupils in each school and a total of 43,800.
She said the feeding programme had been working perfectly, adding that consciousness of education had been seriously raised by that factor.
Mrs Ibe further said that the increase in primary school enrolment affected the number of teachers, adding that the recent primary school teacher’s employment brought the figure of teachers to 1,850.
Some of the parents, who spoke on the issue, believed that the feeding programme had helped in boosting pupil’s enrolment.
Solomon Okakem, a trader, said that pupils have become more eager to go to school following the initiative.
“You know that our children like to emulate and each time those who went to school came back to tell the story of feeding and stipend, other will naturally become eager to join them.’’
Also, Chinelo Osondu, disclosed that in the past there used to be serious apathy in pupil’s enrolment, but added that recently the case had changed.
The Headmistress of Central School, Umulogho, Mrs Felicia Chinagorom, said that the number of enrolment had drastically increased.
But, Christogonus Nweke, UNICEF Desk Officer in Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board, said only 57 per cent of school-aged children have access to basic education.
Mr Nweke said that a multiple indicator cluster survey conducted in 2011 revealed that 57 per cent of Ebonyi children did not have access to basic education enrolment while only 43 per cent enrolled.
He added the state government had made it compulsory for every child to go to school through its free and compulsory education policy.
Mr Nweke expressed regrets that despite frantic effort by UNICEF and the state government, parents in the state still send their children to different cities in Nigeria to either hawk or serve as domestic house helps.
He said that the state government in conjunction with UNICEF in 2017 inaugurated a 50-man committee to work out modalities to address poor enrolment of schoolchildren in Ebonyi.
“The UNICEF in collaboration with the Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board in 2017 inaugurated a 50-man committee comprising community leaders, youth leaders and women mobilisers to sensitise and enlighten parents on the need to enrol their children and wards into schools in early stage of life.
“It is regrettable that Ebonyi is the only state among the five South-East states that still talk about poor school enrolment in the zone as thousands of children of school age are not enrolled,” Mr Nweke said.
He applauded the state government and UNICEF’s efforts in ensuring that parents, especially those in the rural communities enrol their children into school.
The official called for sustained efforts to ensure that guardians who pick up children from their parents from the villages were made to send them to school.
He further commended state government for providing infrastructure, desks, teaching aids and instructional materials in the 1,138 public primary schools in the state, which he said had improved the standard of teaching and learning.
He commended the Federal Government for the introduction of free school feeding programme, adding that it had boosted school enrolment in Ebonyi.
In Cross River teachers and parents in benefiting schools commended the Federal Government for introducing School Feeding Programme.
Speaking separately with NAN in Calabar, they said that the programme was a welcome development.
The Head Teacher of Government Primary School, State Housing Calabar, Francisca Ayi, said that pupils were delighted about the programme.
“It is a welcome development. All the parents are happy with government for the programme because it relives them of pressures.
“Some children leave home and come to school without taking anything, hoping to eat at school. So I pray that the government do not abandon the programme half way, ‘’ she said.
Mrs Ayi also said that the programme had led to increase in the school’s enrolment recently, adding that many parents now withdraw their children from private schools to her school.
“Well, it has somehow led to increase in the pupil’s enrolment as some parents now withdraw their children from private schools to government school,’’ he said.
The head teacher however said there has been a halt in the programme this academic session.
“Incidentally, we have not seen anything since we resumed this term. One of the contractors had told me that, they were waiting for release of money.
“If you observe well, you can see the children peeping outside to see if the food has arrived. And when they see the food, you will see the excitement in them,’’ she said.