One of the strong campaign promises of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is to provide free meals for primary school pupils. A promise that hasn’t take effect in any part of the country since the President Muhammadu Buhari administration takes up power in May 29, 2015.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State emerged as the first governor to keep the promise on Monday, January 18, 2016 when he flagged-off free feeding Programme for 1.8 million primary school pupils in the state.
The free feeding programme was the beginning of a different phase of the State Government’s project to expand access to education, Mr. El-Rufai said.
It would be recalled that during the electioneering campaign, the school free feeding programme was part of the promises made by El-Rufai to the electorate.
In his address at the occasion held at the Aliyu Makama Road Primary School, Barnawa area of Kaduna metropolis, the governor said the free feeding programme, which is to serve as a direct intervention in the health of the pupils, will also assist the schools to promote education and nutrition among the pupils.
Gov. El-Rufai stressed that in carrying out the policy, perfection must not be allowed to pose a stumbling block to doing the needful, adding that it is in the process of feeding the school children that the programme can be refined and perfected.
He said. “Every school day from Monday, the Kaduna State Government will be providing a meal for 1.8m primary school pupils.
“It is an unprecedented undertaking in this state, but one that we solemnly pledged to do when we were campaigning.
“It is a challenge in terms of its scale, cost and the logistics required to deliver the meals every day. But our children deserve this, and more.
“We are conscious that it would save parents break-time money, empower the women within the community who have been selected as the catering vendors and expand the market for farm products.
“In fact, 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.
“Thus there is something for everyone in the School Feeding Programme. 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.
“I urge everyone involved in the programme to discharge their responsibilities with the utmost sense of commitment, transparency and accountability. The monitoring mechanism must be rigorous, and we invite the school-based management committees and Parent-Teacher Associations to review and provide us their observations on the implementation of the programme at the school level.
“We will not be surprised to hear about teething problems, but we expect these problems to be swiftly addressed within a governing ethos of continuous improvement.
“As pragmatic people, we understand that in executing policy we must not let the perfect be a restraint on the doable. It is in the process of actually feeding our school children that we can refine and perfect the programme.
“As I noted earlier, school feeding is a separate plan of our initiative to expand access to education, to ensure that every child can have nine years of free, decent basic education, no matter the income level of their parents. Parents have responded with enthusiasm, and at the beginning of this session enrollment in public schools rose by 64%.
“We began our education programme with the recruitment of teachers for core subject areas, conducted a needs-assessment to identify how we can strengthen the capacity of current teachers and then announced the removal of all bureaucratic impediments to the career advancement and sense of fulfillment of professional teachers in the public school system. We made it clear that a professional teacher can rise to Grade Level 17, without having to stop being a teacher.
“Having taken steps to raise the morale and capacity of teachers as the frontline workers in delivering quality education, the government began addressing the question of the physical condition of the theatre in which they work: the schools.
“We inherited a baleful legacy of dilapidated schools, inadequate classrooms, and no furniture for 50% of the pupils. The schools also often lacked water and toilet facilities.
“The APC government of Kaduna State responded by launching a school rehabilitation programme. 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.
“Permit me to register our gratitude to the Kaduna State House of Assembly for supporting our vision, and passing the 2016 Budget swiftly with such massive provision for Education and the Social Sector in general.
“We are also grateful to the Federal Government which has, through the Office of the Vice-President, provided technical support and has committed to reimburse the Kaduna State Government up to 60% of the cost of the School Feeding Programme.
“There is still so much work ahead. I assure you that we shall never be lacking in the commitment, determination and courage to do as we promised. We will appreciate your feedback and suggestions so that we can do better in serving you, the citizens of Kaduna State”, El-Rufai said.