Caterers for Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) should have heaved a sigh of relief about the release of GH150 million to defray part of the outstanding arrears owed them by government.
It is refreshing that cash has hit the accounts of the caterers, and some of the them have started receiving moneys from their banks.
According to a statement issued by the GNSF programme, the government was mobilising funds to clear all outstanding arrears for the 2018/2019 academic year, so that the 2019/2020 academic year would start on a clean bill.
It is our wish that the government would secure the necessary funding to sustain the programme that is geared toward increasing enrolment and retention in deprived schools.
Clearly, government's timely intervention with the release of the moneys to caterers, at the time some of them are disillusioned, is good news.
Most of the caterers owe their suppliers, who had also threatened to cease supplying them food stuff and ingredients because of non-payment.
It is our conviction that with the release of the moneys, caterers would be motivated to improve upon their services to the GSFP.
We believe the release of the money has brought harmony among the stakeholders of the programme, and we hope that this would be sustained to make the successful.
The GSFP was established in the 2005 to provide one hot nutritional meal on every school day for selected deprived children in disadvantaged schools with the object of increasing enrolment and retention.
We are told that the GSFP now reaches out to about 2.8 million children in 9,495 deprived schools across the country.
The added advantage of the programme is its attendant job creation in deprived communities, resulting in 9,200 jobs in the catering industry as well as 19,400 cooks.
Furthermore, the programme seeks to create more direct and indirect jobs for Ghanaians, especially in the agriculture value chain as the caterers are expected to feed the children with food stuff locally grown in the community, thereby creating already market for the farmer.
This laudable intervention must be continued at all cost despite funding challenges facing the programme.
We entreat the managers of the GSFP to make judicious use of the limited resources available for maximum returns, in terms of school enrolment and retention, toward building strong human resource base for the country.
Indeed, the caterers need money urgently to procure all the foodstuff and ingredients necessary to provide the one hot meal for the pupils and students.
We have heard that some caterers are not able to get the required suppliers and are purchasing foreign foodstuff, including rice.
This is certainly not the intention of the programme!
The reason behind the use of locally-grown foodstuff is also to induce in the children "eat Ghana food" so that they would appreciate it forever.
It is regrettable that millions of foreigh exchange are used to import foodstuffs like rice, which Ghana has the potential to become self-sufficient in.
We urge managers and stakeholders to work extra harder to resolve all the challenges facing the programme, including lack of kitchen space, modern cooking tools, dining halls, eating bowls for the beneficiary school children, refrigeration for the storage of foodstuff and ingredients, water storage facilities, to mention but a few.
We know the various assemblies across the country are key stakeholders of the programme, and they are expected to play important roles to resolve these bottle necks, to improve service delivery of the GSFP.