By Dipo Olowookere
Nigeria’s National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSF) is set to overtake South Africa’s as the largest school feeding programme in Africa.
The scheme was launched in 2016 by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and it currently feeds a total of 8,596,340 pupils daily in 46,247 public primary schools in 24 states of the federation.
In South Africa, where a similar programme, National School Nutrition Programme, was launched 24 years ago (1994), it caters for an estimated 9.2 million learners, going by a 2017 report by the South Africa’s Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.
Addressing newsmen on Thursday in Abuja, Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais, explained that following NHGSF’s impressive adoption and growth in just two years of the launch of the initiative, it was evident that the social intervention programme will become the largest in Africa by the close of 2018.
She added that the benefits of the NHGSF initiative include increases in school enrolments and improvement in the health and nutrition of pupils in all the schools where the initiative is being implemented.
Mrs Uwais expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved by the programme and noted that its goals, which include ensuring increased enrolment, attendance and improvement in the health and nutrition of pupils in schools are being met.
She revealed further that through the NHGSFP initiative, total of 90,670 Nigerians have been engaged and empowered to be cooks, while over a hundred thousand farmers have also been linked to the school feeding programme to supply locally sourced farm produce to the cooks.
“In other words, we have created a value chain with significant economic benefits to the microeconomic development of the states. The value chain offers additional benefits of job creation and increased livelihood outcomes for both cooks and small holder farmers; hence improving livelihood and the local economies,” she said.
She also stated that the NHGSFP implementation is guided by the five global standards for school feeding programmes of this nature. These are: the establishment of a policy framework, programme design and implementation, institutional capacity and coordination, funding standards and community participation.
“NHGSFP leverages on the institutional structures within the States to implement the programme. Each participating state has signed Memorandum of Association with the federal government, which defines the roles and responsibilities for the key programme deliverables such as cook recruitment, operational activities, delivery of meals as well as basic monitoring and evaluation of the programme,” she added.
Speaking further, Mrs Uwais said that one of the critical success factors for the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHSGP) is the strong political will of the Federal Government.
“The process of funds disbursement for the NHGSFP ensures transparency, accountability and trackability. The NHGSFP has not only improved the livelihood of farmers engaged but has also improved that of cooks; most of whom now have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs; such as financial literary, transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance. Financial inclusion is a key enabler to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity. We are proud to say, these are some of the key achievements of the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme,” she added.
To ensure continuous improvement in programme delivery, Mrs Uwais said the programme has put together a system of regular Peer Review with the States to share key learnings and problem-solving mechanisms.
The NSIO also ensures strict compliance with set standards by the Federal Government by suspending the programme in any state where the prescribed standard is reported to have fallen below expectations, until a redesign and re-alignment is achieved.
NHGSF is one of the four Social Investment Programmes of the President Buhari administration which seeks to provide one nutritious meal a day to pupils in primary 1-3 in public primary schools in all States in Nigeria.
Today, the school programme is currently being implemented in 24 States in Nigeria. The 24 States include Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo in South-East; Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Delta in the South-South; Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Ogun in the South-West; Benue, Niger and Plateau in the North-Central; Kaduna, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina and Zamfara in the North-West as well as Bauchi, Gombe, Borno and Jigawa in the North-East. Sokoto and Adamawa States are expected to join the programme soon.
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