ActionAid Nigeria (AAN), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), has called on the federal government to extend the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) to all pupils of primary schools across the country.
The Country Director of the organisation, Ene Obi, made the call at the Launch and Dissemination of the Third Party Monitoring Report of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP).
AAN, in partnership with the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) with support from DFID- Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) and the Ford Foundation, worked on the Third-party Monitoring on the implementation of the NSIP.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NSIP of the federal government falls within three groups: Home Grown School Feeding Programme, Government Economic Enterprise Programme and N-Power.
HGSFP was formulated to feed primary school pupils to increase school enrollment, reduce malnutrition, empower community women as cooks and support small farmers to stimulate economic growth.
According to a document of the NSIP, the main objective of the HESFP is to provide a balanced meal each school day for 12 million pupils in classes 1-3.
Its initial target was 5.5 million pupils, but it had exceeded that target by 50 per cent as of June 2018.
According to the NSIP document, the programme is now taking place in 30 states and provides a single school day meal to over nine million pupils in over 52,000 schools across Nigeria.
The Country Director of AAN, Ms Obi, said the NSIO should extend the meals to all primary school pupils, including the pre-primary classes and classes four to six. The programme currently covers only pupils in primary 1 to 3.
Ms Obi also said additional incentives should be introduced into the programme besides feeding of students.
"Items such as notebooks, school bags and stationery should be provided for the children every session through the programme," she said
The AAN director said these incentives will act as additional motivation to children and their parents to send kids to school.
She also called for the construction of additional classrooms because of the increase in enrollment which she said will cause space constraints.
Ms Obi said the amount being paid to cooks should also be reviewed "to reflect current realities."
Many cooks had complained that the money provided for meal preparation was inadequate. Each cook is paid N70 per pupil and is expected to prepare meals for 700 pupils.
"Assessments of cooks and location for food preparation should be carried out prior to recruitment," Ms Obi said
Benefits of the Programme
Ms Obi said there has been an increase in the learning reception by school children as well as enrollment in schools because pupils have access to one meal a day.
She said the parents of the children form part of the secondary beneficiaries under the HGSFP, while livelihoods have also been created for the cooks and food vendors.
Speaking at the event, Zainab Abudullahi, a ten-year-old pupil of Budan Primary School in Kaduna State, said the programme has been helpful and beneficial to everyone.
She praised the government for the efforts being made to improve the lives of citizens in the country.
Miss Abudullahi pleaded that the programme should be extended to pupils in higher classes. "The government should improve the quality and quantity of food provided to pupils," she said.
A beneficiary of the National Social Investment Programme( N-SIP), Lawal Oluwafemi, said it enabled him to begin business after two years without a job.
Mr Oluwafemi benefitted from N-power in 2016. He said he saved 50 per cent of his income to establish a business.
He thanked the government for the opportunity given to him.
N-SIP is a portfolio of programmes created in 2015 and Launched in 2016 by the Federal Government of Nigeria to deliver socio-economic support to the disadvantaged Nigerians across the country.
The programmes include N-power, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), NHGSFP and National Cash Transfer Programme.