The federal government has explained how it plans to conduct its Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme across the country despite the nationwide closure of schools.
Schools across Nigeria have been shut for about three weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
President Muhammadu Buhari last week while addressing Nigerians on the coronavirus instructed the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, to develop a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding programme.
In her reaction, Ms Farouq insisted that the programme would be implemented despite the closure of schools nationwide, a statement criticised by many Nigerians on social media, questioning how the Buhari administration aims to execute such a plan.
But in a statement signed by the programme’s Assistant Director, Rhoda Iliya, on Tuesday, Ms Farouq said the school feeding would be using a door-to-door voucher distribution system to feed the pupils.
She said the programme will give priority to Lagos, Ogun and FCT but will extend to all states currently participating in the programme for a period of 30 days.
Although many states have imposed restriction of movement on residents, Lagos, Ogun, and the FCT are under a presidential lockdown, all to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Lagos and the FCT are the states most affected by the coronavirus, while Ogun was added to the lockdown due to its proximity to Lagos.
“The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development has concluded plans with State Governments to continue the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme using a door-to-door voucher distribution system.
“The programme will give priority to Lagos, Ogun and FCT but will extend to all states currently participating in the program for a period of 30 days.
“Vouchers will allocate collection time to avoid overcrowding. The vouchers will be redeemed at designated distribution sites,” Ms Farouq said.
Ms Farouq noted that the aggregators will provide the food items.
She also explained that the distribution of the food would be situated within the communities.
“Existing aggregators will provide the food items. Distribution sites will be situated within the communities and in some states within the achools by hand washing points. Safety and hygiene precautions will be observed,” she said.
The aggregators are companies contracted by the government to provide protein supplements like fish, beef, eggs, fruits and vegetables.
However, PREMIUM TIMES understands that not all states have the aggregators initiative. Some states like Katsina prefer to give their cooks money to buy the foodstuff themselves and cook the food.
In some states, the food items are purchased and supplied to the vendors by the state governments, through the ”aggregators.” Under such an arrangement, the cooks are only paid “salaries” as their role is to just cook and serve the meals.
The HGSF programme was introduced in 2016 as part of the Social Investment Programme of the Buhari administration. It was projected to provide 1.14 million jobs across the country, including community women who would be engaged as cooks.
The programme, with the partnership of state governments, aims to support states to collectively feed over 24 million primary school children, which will make it the largest school feeding programme of its kind in Africa. The goals include tackling poverty and improving the health and education of children and other vulnerable groups.
According to a 2019 government document titled “Investing in Our People,” the programme is feeding over nine million pupils in 52,604 schools across 30 states and has empowered 101,913 cooks with bank accounts.
PREMIUM TIMES July last year published a report on how the programme has impacted rural women in Katsina State.
A survey done by this newspaper revealed that many of the HGSF programme beneficiaries never had bank accounts before. Many also narrated their vulnerability before they found placement in the programme.