The Kaduna state school feeding programme is yet to begin, two weeks after resumption of schools in the state.
The feeding programme for primary school pupils was launched on January 19 by the state governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
Since the pupils returned from the long vacation, however, they have not been provided meals under the programme.
Some cooks alleged that the delay in the resumption of the programme was due to some politicians trying to hijack the process of appointing cooks to benefit their allies.
But the state government said it was trying to expand the programme, to enhance quality of the meals and in deference to demands by more people for inclusion in providing the meals.
A cook in one of the schools, who would not be named as she was not authorised to speak, told PREMIUM TIMES that the programme went well before the long vacation. But since resumption of the schools, she said government officials had not approached them to begin preparing meals for the children.
“We are hearing that the some people who are close to the seat of power are trying to hijack the process by appointing their own relations to be cooking for the school children,” she said.
“When the programme began last year, we were picked by some government officials who identified us because we are close to the school premises. They will access you, take your phone number, passport and fill some forms before you will be recruited.”
She said the cooks were paid commission and not salary by the state government.
“What we are given to use in cooking is the only money that will be given to you. After you have purchased what you need for the food, the balance is what you keep.
“When we started the state government used to give us N11, 000 per cook for 221 pupils. After some time they reduced the money to N8, 500 for 167 pupils.
“Although in my school, we have about 80 cooks who supply the food; 50 cooks for morning pupils and 30 cooks for afternoon pupils. The programme is arranged in such a way that every cook work once a week.
“I cook yam and stew every Monday for my school, and so do others. Every cook, cooks once a week.”
The cook said the state government last week asked all the old cooks and new cooks who are interested to collect a new form from the Government House in Kaduna.
“I collected one from the gate of the Government House and when I asked why another form, they told us that government wanted to review the process.
“But what we actually heard was that people who were not interested at the beginning of the programme now have interest and want to use their connections to also secure the cooking jobs.
She applauded Governor El-Rufai for not defaulting in paying the cooks as at when due since the beginning of the programme.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on the issue, the governor’s spokesperson, Samuel Aruwan, said the state government was committed to the School Feeding Programme and was presently working on enhancing the scheme.
“Only last week, the officials finished collecting completed application forms from thousands of prospective food vendors who expressed interest in the program. They are presently sorting out the applications, using a standardized methodology that will add quality and efficiency to the programme”, he said.
“You may also recall, that the extension of the exercise was to create opportunities for citizens to participate following outcry of exclusion in accessing application forms, which government noted and directed that the forms be made available on the state government’s website and other locations for all citizens. The gesture was well appreciated by the citizens.”
He said that immediately the exercise was completed, feeding in the schools would resume under supervision to ensure quality.
Meanwhile some intending cooks have alleged that preferential treatment was being given to some people.
Another cook faulted the process of the distribution of the forms by the state government.
“We all know that the state government wants to do away with some of us to favour some of their allies. When it started people never believed in it. Now everybody wants it and the only way they can get the cooking job is to do away with some of us.
“They say we have to download the forms online or visit some ministries to get it. Some of us went there and yet we cannot find it,” she said.
Many parents, however, have applauded the state government for the programme.
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