The Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA) has urged the government to improve sensitisation to ensure wide participation and that all registered beneficiaries of the Nigerian Home Grown School Feeding Program, participate and benefit from the program.
The Executive Director, PAACA, Eze Nwagwu said this on Wednesday in Abuja, at the Public Launch of PAACA Report titled,”WERE THE KIDS FED? NIGERIA’S HOME-GROWN SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAM(NHGSFP) IN THE MIDST OF COVID-19: ASSESSING CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS IN THE FCT.”
According to him, the publication consists of findings from the feedback on implementation of the NHGSFP of the administration during the COVID-19 school lockdown, collated from residents in the six area councils of the FCT, which include Abaji, Bwari, Kuje, Gwagwalada, Kwali and AMAC.
He said the decision to undertake the study was in response to scepticisms that greeted the decision of the President to proceed with the modified version of the school feeding program in a COVID-19 school lockdown.
He pointed out that the modification include the introduction of vouchers, authentication of beneficiaries and the provision of seven selected raw food to families of public school children in primary one to three.
Nwagwu added that part of the aim of the report was to determine the effectiveness of the process, transparency and accountability in the implementation of the program, as executed by the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry.
He noted that the scheme met its set objective of reaching out to the less privileged, but said most respondents across the six area councils could not participate because food did not reach their communities, among other factors.
“There is a need for the government to improve sensitization in order to ensure wide participation and that all registerd beneficiaries of the scheme participate and benefits from the program.
“Voichers should be made available to all participants without discrimination and duplication to some beneficiaries.
“There should be strict adherence to the standard protocol required in the verification of pupils and standardize the content of food packs.
“There is also a need for close monitoring of officials responsible for the implementation of the scheme to ensure that food items meant for children are not hijacked by officials and associates.
“Likewise, there is need for the federal government of Nigeria to prioritize the establishment of a centralized and comprehensive socio-demographic database to assist the implementation of programmes like NHGSFP in future,” he said.
The Executive Director drew the attention of government on key findings which include the fact that beneficiaries are unaware of the quantity of items to expect from the program, and that this gives room for manipulation.
Others are inconsistencies in the operational processes, denial of vouchers to respondents, invasion of venues by thugs among others.
The Humanitarian Affairs Ministry, represented by the Special Adviser on School Feeding Program, Dotun Adebayo who appreciated PAACA for putting the report together, stressed the need to debunk the rumours and lies going round in the media about the NHGSFP.
He noted that one of the challenges people have about the scheme is the possibility of the school children being fed when schools were not in session.
Adebayo disclosed that what was done was that the ministry put in place a take home ration program, adding that it is not new to Nigeria, it happens so many countries.
He said that the COVID-19 brought a peculiar challenge, and that the ministry decided to come up with the strategy in order to implement the President’s directive of ensuring the continuity of the program.
Adebayo declared that the program is not happening continuously and that it only happened in three states, and that the design of the program is a take home ration program.
He further mentioned that there was a targeting process that targets the parents and households of the children who normally would attend the public schools from primary one to three.
He explained that the voucher is used in the targeting process which includes the data base that enables them to know those that actually benefited from the program.