School feeding programme yet to take off in Bayelsa, weeks after flag-off

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Five weeks after flag-off of the National Home -Grown School Feeding programme (NHGSFP) in Bayelsa , the programme is yet to commence.

The former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq had on May 25 performed a symbolic flag-off of the programme which pledged feeding of 59,000 pupils in 599 primary schools in Bayelsa.  

Umar-Farouq had said that NHGSFP was a component of National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) aimed at providing one free nutritious meal a day to pupils of primary 1 to 3 in public primary schools across the nation. 

 Checks by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in public primary schools in Yenagoa , Bayelsa capital, indicated that the feeding was yet to commence.

Some pupils in public primary schools in Yenagoa who witnessed the May 25 flag off said they had been waiting for the food promised.

Sinivie John, a primary 3 pupil at St Mathias Primary School Yenagoa, said he expected the food, but expressed regret that the hope was dashed as he would no longer be eligible when he got promoted into primary 4 after the ongoing third term examinations.

Mr Richman Otobo, Chairman, Bayelsa Chairman of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) noted that the high hopes by pupils and parents who hailed the flag off ceremony had been dashed.

“The school feeding programme, which commenced in 2016, came late to Bayelsa and we thought that it was better late than never but after more than one month of launch, nothing is happening.

“The NUT was part of the flag off and we had hopes that the feeding will enhance learning and bring relief to parents and the new and old pupils are disappointed.They may have diverted the funds and nothing is happening,” the NUT chairman said.

Although, Mr Gentle Emelah, Commissioner for Education, whose ministry oversees the programme, declined comment on delay experienced, it was learnt that funds for the programme were yet to be released by the Federal Government.

Mr Emmanuel Benson, Focal Person for NSIP in Bayelsa, said that other components were currently running smoothly except the school feeding programme which was yet to take off.

“The other social investment programmes being funded by the Federal Government are doing well in Bayelsa. We are eagerly awaiting the effective take off and a lot has been done already.

“It is a Federal Government funded programme domiciled in states and Bayelsa Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government and both parties are working in harmony.

“Our appeal is to the Federal Government to release the funds for our children to join their peers across the nation in the nearest future.

“We also want Bayelsa Government to sustain its support to the NSIP Secretariat in Bayelsa and enable us to overcome the teething problems of the school feeding,” Benson said.

Benson dismissed  speculations that the funds for the Bayelsa school feeding had been diverted as the funds were supposed to go directly to the beneficiaries selected to provide services.

He explained that the governance process for NSIP was transparent and the beneficiaries got the funds by e-payment without any intermediary. (NAN)