THE Home Grown Feeding Programme is boosting school enrolment across the country, a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has revealed. Stakeholders interviewed in the southern part of the country said the programme has also enhanced the rate of retention of pupils in schools and called for its sustenance.
In Ibadan, Mrs Aderonke Makanjuola, the Chairman of Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), said the home grown feeding programme had been impactful in the enrolment of pupils in public primary schools.
Makanjuola told NAN that three months into the commencement of the programme there was a marginal increase in the enrolment of pupils in the participatory schools.
“The Home grown feeding programme has been impactful in Oyo State. I could remember when we had the opportunity to commence the programme early January 2017, three months after, pupils enrolment increased.
“As we are advancing in the programme, pupil’s enrolment kept increasing all over the state’s primary schools,” she said.
Makanjuola also said the state has a total of 2,409 primary schools, including nomadic schools.
According to her, the state currently has 383, 653 pupils in public primary school while the total number of primary school teachers is 21, 267.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun Commissioner for Education, Mrs Modupe Mujota, also said that the free meal programme for primary school pupils had improved enrolment.
Mujota described indigenes of the state people who give education top priority, adding that school enrolment had always been on the increase every year even before the commencement of the feeding programme.
She said it was therefore difficult to ascribe the increased number of school enrolment in 2018 to the school feeding programme which commenced in 2017.
The commissioner, however, explained that the major benefit of the programme was reduction in absenteeism as the pupils often look forward to a hot meal.
She said the development had also led to improvement in the health status and academic performance of the pupils.
According to her, the programme commenced on January 31, 2017 in 874 of the 1, 554 public primary schools in the state.
She added that a total of 2,968 women were recruited as food vendors to provide lunch for the pupils daily.
Mujota said that the food were sourced locally and always subjected to thorough inspection before being served to ensure good hygiene.
In Osogbo, Alhaji Fatai Kolawole, the Permanent Secretary of Osun Universal Basic Education Board, said that the school feeding programme in the state had increased enrolment and reduced absenteeism.
According to him, more than 382, 482 pupils were currently enrolled in public primary schools across the state.
Kolawole said no fewer than 15,000 teachers work in the public primary schools in the state, adding that this was is in line with UNESCO standard of 25 pupils to a teacher.
The permanent secretary said with the availability of adequate infrastructure, experienced teachers and the free feeding programme, parents were now willing to enrol their wards in public schools.
Also speaking, Mrs Olubunmi Ayoola, the Director of Operations, Osun School Pupils Feeding Programme, said that the school feeding programme had helped in boosting enrolment of pupils in the state.
Ayoola said that more than 145,000 pupils from grade one to three, and 41,000 pupils on grade four were also being fed on a daily basis.
She said while the Federal Government was responsible for the feeding of grade one to three pupils, the state government was responsible for pupils in grade 4.
Ayoola said the school feeding programme had led to increased enrolment in public schools in the state.
“The Federal Government has been so helpful since the commencement of this programme in 2006.
“Since the commencement of the programme, enrolment in public primary schools had increased tremendously,’’ Ayoola said.
In Ilorin, Mrs Zainab Balogun, the Head of Research and Statistics Unit, Kwara Ministry of Education, said the state has no fewer than 1, 536 primary schools with a total enrolment of 201, 956 pupils.
She said that as at the last school census conducted in the 2015/2016 session, there were 1, 536 schools across the 16 local government areas of the state.
Balogun said there were more boys than girls in public primary schools with 128, 963 boys as against 117,105 girls.
He added that there were 13, 060 primary school teachers in the state made up of 5,229 males and 7,831females.
Balogun, however, said that implementation of school feeding programme was underway in the state.
“We have started taking steps to begin implementation of the feeding programme; forms and interviews are being conducted for the food vendors.
“Selection is ongoing, seminars and awareness have started and this cuts across the 16 local government areas,’’ she said.
Balogun argued that the school feeding programme would boost enrolment of pupils into primary schools in the state.
“It is going to boost enrolment as it has done in other states.
“The School Based Management Committee is working through awareness and enlightenment to ensure that the gap between the boys and girls enrolled is closed.
“The government is working to ensure that girls go back to school and we hope that the feeding programme encourages that also,’’ she said.
Meanwhile, a cross section of parents and teachers in Ilorin confirmed that the school feeding programme had not started in the state.
Mr Kunle Oye, the Chairman of Parents Teachers Association of Gaa-Akanbi Primary School, Ilorin, said no pupil in Kwara had benefited from the free lunch initiative.
“We only read on the pages of newspapers and hear on the radio of the development by the Federal Government,’’ he said.
In Ekiti, enrolment of pupils in public primary schools has increased considerably, findings by NAN have revealed.
Investigations at the Ministry of Education revealed that the number of public primary schools in the state rose from 711 in 2014 to 810 in 2017.
The enrolment of pupils in the schools also increased from 378, 000 in 2014 to 463,863 in 2017, with the teacher population rising from 19, 750 to 21, 000 within the period.