No fewer than 197,140 primary school pupils from Abia are currently benefiting from the Home Grown School Feeding Programme of the federal government.
Mrs Florence Chukwude of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development who disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Abia said 9 million pupils nationwide were currently benefiting from the scheme.
Mrs Chukwude who is the Abia Team Lead on the federal government verification task force said the federal government had given the Ministry mandate to reach additional 5 million pupils by 2023.
Chukwude, who represented the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said the exercise was designed to enable the ministry to “verify, validate and analyse the data from Abia”.
“The essence of the capturing and enumeration of pupils and schools was to ensure transparency, accountability and sustainability of the programme,” she said.
Chukwude said the ministry would in September capture the schools that were not yet on the scheme in order to upgrade the number of benefitting schools from Abia.
She said the Federal Government initiated the programme in 2017 for pupils in primary one to three to cushion the effect of the harsh economy on parents and guardians.
She expressed joy that the objective of the programme as envisioned by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister was being realised.
She said that the programme had not only shored up school enrollment but had created employment opportunities for the food vendors engaged in the scheme.
” It has also improved local food production thereby enhancing the social welfare of our farmers”, she added.
She said that 1,030 public schools in Abia were currently on the programme but added that the number could increase by September.
Speaking also, the Programme Manager, Abia School Feeding, Elder Gabriel Ahuruonye, said that the “Federal Government injects N450 million every month” into the programme.
The money according to him is paid directly to the account of food vendors engaged in the programme.
Elder Ahuruonye who lauded the federal government said the programme had been a tremendous success in the state.
According to him, while the federal government feeds pupils from primary one to primary three, the state government complements the efforts by feeding pupils from Nursery one to three, as well as primary four to six.
He said that school enrollment had increased by 85% across the board since the exercise commenced in 2016.
The team visited Ahieke Community Primary School and Ugba Primary School where it monitored the feeding of pupils.
Headmistress of Ahieke Community Primary School, Mrs Ezioma Nwachukwu, lauded the programme saying it has helped to improve school enrollment.
“We recorded a substantial increase in the number of enrollment courtesy of the programme.
“It has also been a source of incentive to pupils to come to school regularly.
“They are always enthusiastic to come to school once they remember the meal,” Nwachukwu said.