The Federal government’s free meal programme for primary school pupils has taken off in Ogun State.
At a ceremony for the take off in Abeokuta on Monday, Governor Ibikunle Amosun said the scheme was part of the Social Intervention Programme of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the scheme, tagged the Ogun Home Grown School Feeding Programme, would eventually be implemented in the 1,554 primary schools across the state, with pupils in classes 1 – 3 as beneficiaries in the first phase.
The Governor, who was represented at the ceremony by his deputy, Yetunde Onanuga, explained that it would start simultaneously in 874 schools in the first phase.
He said 2,968 women had been enrolled and trained as food vendors for the
programme, out of which 1,381 commenced operation on Monday.
Mr. Amosun said the other vendors and pupils would be added as soon as documentation issues were resolved. He added that a women empowerment scheme was embedded in the programme.
He listed the benefits of the programme as provision of nutritionally-balanced meals to pupils, improved school performance and health status, and boost in school enrolments. Other benefits envisaged were better school retention record, employment generation and poverty alleviation.
Mr. Amosun further said the food items would be sourced locally to enhance the production and income capacities of farmers and suppliers of various products.
The Programme Manager for the project in the state, Tinuola Shopeju, said the preparations for the take-off of the programme started eight months ago.
Mrs. Shopeju, who is the Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Duties, said this was to achieve the standard prescribed by the federal government.
“For the eight months, the state government has worked in conjunction with the federal government to achieve the highly detailed standards prescribed for states that would be benefit from this scheme”, she stated.
“In order to achieve this, our governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, set up a multi-sectorial committee which spanned the Ministries of Special Duties, Education, Agriculture, Health, and Community Development to work together on the programme”, she said.
“Today’s flag-off is the culmination of the arduous work put together by this team. We are grateful to the governor for his exemplary vision and drive, which has made Ogun State one of the first states to benefit from the school feeding programme.
“It will operate through our carefully selected and trained vendors who have been aptly equipped with a strict time table of nutrition foods easily grown in our local environment.”
At the event, 23 items including white aprons, white caps, Adire gowns, industrial coal pots, medium and small food warmers were distributed to the vendors.
Other items distributed to them were cooking spoons, turning sticks, 100-litres drums, iron pails, iron pots, aluminium water basins, water bowls, aluminium sieves, and kitchen knives.
The highlight of the event was the symbolic serving of the food to the students by the Deputy Governor, Alake of Egbaland, Adedotun Gbadebo, and Speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, Suraj Adekunbi; among other public officials.