THE Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, among other stakeholders, weekend begun the verification of the number of cooks and pupils meant to benefit from it’s National Homegrown Feeding programme in the State.
The enumeration will determine, among other areas whether the number of cooks and that of the benefiting pupils were verifiable as the FG has so far spent N95 million in feeding benefiting primary school pupils in the state in 2021.
The Manager of the programme in the State, Mr Sunday Mbam stated this in Abakaliki during the enumeration exercise by a team from the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Abuja.
Mbam said that the pupils were, however, fed for only 40 days; 20 days in May and another 20 days in July 2021.
“The money was spent on feeding 64,301 pupils in 557 benefiting primary schools with the cost of feeding a pupil being N70. We have 762 cooks who had been paid till date and the enumeration will determine whether their number and that of the benefiting pupils are verifiable.”
He said that the programme was running smoothly in the state from 2017 to 2019 but encountered hiccups from 2020 with the prevalence of COVID-19.
“The pandemic forced schools on the break with pupils being fed for only 20 days in January 2020. Ebonyiwas not part of the feeding programme for pupils during the COVID-19 period but arrangements were made for a take-home ration programme for pupils.
“The arrangement could, however, not be implemented with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and such extended till 2021,” he said.
He stated that the programme had over 1,400 cooks covering over 1,050 schools in 2017 but was reviewed after the National Bureau of Statistics verification exercise in 2018 which also affected other states.
“The number of cooks dropped from 1,400 to 762 and 1,050 pupils to 557 due to unexplained reasons.”
Mr Kinglsey Ngene, Team Lead of the programme’s enumeration to Ebonyi, urged the state government to show greater commitment to the school feeding programme.
Ngene who is also the Special Assistant to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajiya Sadiya Farouk, explained that there were noticeable hiccups in the management of gadgets used in the exercise, provision of logistics such as vehicles, among others.
“We will determine from the findings of the field officers whether the number of people engaged in the project was verifiable and the actual number of pupils being fed.
One of the Vendors who spoke with Vanguard, Ndidi Amaka explained that the reason they have not supplied food to the pupils in August was that they have not been paid.
“They have not paid me for this month so I cannot cook for the children. I started cooking in July 2017. Am waiting for them. I have been paid only two months this year. “
Mrs Nkemdirim Okpala, Headmistress of Central Urban Primary school (2) Abakaliki, said in spite of the noticeable hiccups since the COVID-19 outbreak, the quality of food dished to pupils was commendable.
Master Jonah Egbe, a pupil of Ndechi Onuebonyi Primary School, Abakaliki Local Government Area, thanked the Federal Government for the initiative, noting that it encouraged poor children to attend school.