Kaduna State government has relieved a lot of parents with the new programme of feeding students in school for free. So far, parents in Kaduna have been reacting to the programme and are really thankful that the scheme has been very beneficiary to them. The feeding program, which is strictly for pupils in public primary schools in the state, was launched on January 19 by the state governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
One of the benefiting parent, Kabiru Abu, who is a cobbler, said the free feeding program for primary school children has taken off the burden of providing school meal for his three children. Mr. Abu, who works at Sati market, Badarawa area of Kaduna, said his three children attend LGEA primary school in Badarawa and they all have their meals in school.
“Let me tell you that this feeding program is not for the children only, it is also for us who are parents in the state,” he told reporters. “I’m a cobbler who barely makes between 1000 and 1500 naira a day and I have three school children. Before now, they will come to me every day in the market to collect money for break during school hours. Sometimes I do borrow to give them N20 each, but now that has been taken care of by the state government through the school feeding program.
“For me, it is like taking care of one big responsibility for five days. Every morning they do not wait for their mother to give them food anymore because they know that at 10 a.m. they will be fed in the school. One amazing thing that is happening now is how the children are getting more committed to learning. Any time I return home from the market, they are always in a rush to show me something they learnt from school which has never been so. Apart from taking off the burden of breakfast for me, my wife no longer wakes up in a rush every morning to prepare something for the children to eat or drink before they leave for school,” he said.
When asked if the government also provides school uniform and books for his children, he said no, but spoke positively that the government will handle that in time.
“Not yet but I have trust in this government and I am sure they will soon do that. You can see that virtually all the schools in Kaduna are witnessing massive transformation. More classroom blocks are being built and renovations is taking place all over the state and the feeding of course, books is not going to be a problem, I am sure about that.
One of Mr. Abu’s wards, who is in primary four, said he is happy he does not need to go to his father’s work place to get money to buy food in school anymore.
“We do not come to Baba again because we eat well in the school and we are happy about that. They serve us with rice and beans, moi-moi, yam and egg,” he said.
Another parent, Zainab Sani, who is a widow residing in Kakuri area of Kaduna, said she does not believe any program could benefit the poor in Kaduna better than the free feeding program.
“This program came at the right time. I have two children who are in primary two and my problem has always been how to provide feeding at break time. I am a tailor and have been struggling to provide for my orphans. My two children, Hafsat and Balki, will always return home during classes to say its break time that they need food. Sometimes they will not return to school that day again. They are always in school now and will only return during closing time. It is a great initiative by the government,” she said.
Another mother, Rebecca Bitrus, shed tears while speaking about the program. Her only child, Usman, who attends LGEA school on Aliyu Makama road, Barnawa, has been returning home happy since the program began; talking about the food they are given in school.
And for me I have no reason to worry for what to give him every morning to take to school again,” she said.
According to the United Nations, Nigeria has over 10 million out-of-school children, the largest in the world and most of the are in Northern Nigeria including Kaduna. However, the free feeding program is doing its best to achieve one of its goals, which is to send school drop-outs back to schools. A teacher in Kaduna, while speaking on the increased enrollment since the program began, said it was already leading to over congestion of schools.
Adama Mohammed, the headmistress of one of the benefiting public primary schools, said the feeding program was a success so far, but the state government needs to hasten the renovation and building of new classroom blocks to reduce the number of children in the classes. During the launch of the programme, Governor El-Rufai said the programme is designed to feed 1.5 million pupils in the state’s public primary schools. He also said that the school feeding programme is directly creating 17,000 jobs for catering vendors, each of whom will need to employ workers to help them deliver in time.
“In seeking to take care of our children, we are creating jobs, boosting demand and exposing our people to new skills and hygiene standards and providing extra income. Also responding to the issue of renovating the schools and building more classrooms blocks.
“We inherited a baleful legacy of dilapidated schools, inadequate classrooms, and no furniture for 50 per cent of the pupils. The schools also often lacked water and toilet facilities. It is a massive commitment to fix the more than 4000 public primary schools in the state and transform them into conducive places for the delivery of quality education. We will strive to complete the rehabilitation within our term of office.”