The National Home Grown School Feeding Programme launched by the Federal Government under the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) in Gombe State has resulted in increase in school attendance of primary schools pupils in the state.
Our correspondent, who visited three primary school in Tumu, Pindiga, and Kashere towns in Akko Local Government Area, reports that since the introduction of the programme, children who ordinarily do not go to school now willingly do so daily.
When the programme was launched in March 2018, its target was to provide meals for about 286, 000 pupils in 1, 209 primary schools across the state. However, a month into the programme, it has witnessed an astronomical increase, and now feeding about 400, 000 pupils.
Head teachers at the respective schools said prior to the commencement of the programme, a lot of pupils had dropped out.
Malam Hayatu Galadima, Headmaster of Central Primary School Tumu, said the development was heartwarming. “Initially, there were 800 pupils but the number has increased to 1,000 following the introduction of the school feeding programme,” he said.
He said he had ensured that seven food vendors posted to his school provided standard meals as agreed in the terms of contract.
Headmaster of Central Primary School Kashere, Malam Husaini Yakubu, also said his school had about 750 pupils but the figure has increased to about 1,250 pupils.
Malam Abubakar Sarkin-Fulani, who is in charge of Central Primary School, Pindiga, said some pupils who dropped out of school have returned, just as parents are now eager to enroll their children because of the feeding arrangement.
“Some of the pupils troop to the school even without uniforms, eagerly awaiting break time for the free meal.”
A Primary 3 pupil, Aishatu Abdullahi, said since the beginning of the programme, some of her classmates that hitherto were not coming to school, have returned, while Ibrahim Tukur, a primary 1 pupil, said most of his friends are now regular in school.
“The food is delicious; I and my friends no longer miss classes, especially before break time,” he said.
However, the major challenge is the sustenance of the programme to encourage the pupils to remain in school, because some of them leave the schools soon after the meal is served.
Another challenge is that the increase in pupils’ population has made the food to be insufficient in some schools.
According to Fatima Usman, a food vendor at the Central Primary School Pindiga, she was paid to provide food for a class of 120 pupils, “but now the pupils are over 150 in the class.”
Our correspondent observed that the pupils are served yam and beans on Mondays, Macaroni and egg on Tuesdays, rice and beans on Wednesdays, spaghetti and beans on Thursdays and macaroni and eggs on Fridays.
The Focal Person of the NSIP in Gombe, Hajiya Maryam Isa Mele, said her office is working tirelessly to ensure that the food vendors provide quality and healthy meals.
“I recently went round some schools to monitor the programme. We took their complaints, especially the increase in the number of enrollment and attendance, which makes the food to be insufficient sometimes. We will write to the national office for possible increase of funds,” she said.
Daily Trust observed that the increase in enrollment has over stretched facilities at the schools, with some of the pupils sitting on bare floors. A class meant to cater for 70 pupils now accommodates over 150, making learning difficult