Crashed Kaduna Free School Feeding & Economic Recession
A story going by suggests that a Revered Father was burnt to ashes in a fire incident at his residence in a community. But here comes an admirer asking desperately, “How about his bears”?
The economic recession ravaging Nigeria is a well known disaster to people all over the world, and yet Kaduna residents are still worried, demanding to know the fate of their children with regards to continuing with the free primary school feeding, which was introduced under the current administration of Governor Ahmed Nasir El-Rufai.
With good intentions, though, residents of Kaduna – the defunct capital of the Northern region – knew, and have had course to expressed worry, about the rationale behind running free school feeding of primary pupils with so many things in contention.
A flip through the city center would present enough justification, given the number of schools with dilapidated structures, top-down spread across length and breadth of the state: Some primary schools structures, undoubtedly, constitute serious eye sours, most especially those located within Kaduna metropolis, with the exception of few.
Indeed, successive administrations had being put in place but the conditions of the school structures remain miserable. Notwithstanding the odds, in fulfillment of his political campaign promises made to improved quality of teaching and learning in the state, the governor, Nasir El-Rufai, declared free and compulsory education in primary and post primary school levels on assumption of office.
Dissatisfied with the backwardness in education, El-Rufai also declared free feeding for primary school pupils, which commenced in January 2016. Billions (of naira) went into the projects, but with little or nothing to show for it. In some instances, the school recorded high number of pupils running between 200 and 300 in a classroom meant to accommodate not more than 50 students, while in other places the population of the pupils was quite low despite the awareness.
How funny it is, that immediately after the one meal provided for pupils was over, the population dropped to as low as possible, as most of the children would find their way back home, until the next day.
The initiative was, however, hailed and widely embraced by parents in the state, who cherished the free education aspect but with reservations and fears of sustainability and continuity, given the quantum of financial implantation involved. While this disturbing phenomenon was going on with tongues wagging, side-by-side with the programmes, the PSF initiative surmounted.
The project, which commenced in January 2016, with a whooping sum of N1,1 billion monthly wedge bills, crashed seven months later, specifically in September 2016, when new schools calendar commenced.
The free feeding project actually brought a lot of pupils back in track into schools, but the crowd was said be fake and merely influenced by the introduction of free feeding at a time when hardship was everywhere.
Although most schools suddenly grew with high population, the number dropped immediately after the free meals stopped. Many local governments did not commence immediately but were allegedly covered the in government budget estimated.
Until it crashed in September, the programme had many things to contend with; among them were, however, lack of basic data of pupils, chairs, enough classrooms, and dilapidated structures. In the midst of descending voices and complaints, nevertheless, the implementation continued unabated.
While the state government on its part, made relentless efforts to ensure the continuity of the programme, the efforts did not translate in actuality, apparently due to the economic recession.
Speaking on the issue recently, El-Rufai said that “The 2016 Budget was structured to align spending towards pro-poor priorities, mainly in Education and Health. El-Rufai, who stated this, while presenting the budget to State House of Assembly said, “Our interventions in the sectors have improved access to learning and healthcare. We launched the School Feeding Programme for primary schools, which in January 2016 began providing one meal every school day to1.5m pupils.
“By May, we had expanded the programme to include 0.3m children in our early child education segments of the primary schools; thus, bringing the total to nearly 1.8m children. This initiative to improve the nutrition of children in public primary schools was costing the state about N1.1bn every month. At the end of the 2015/2016 session, we decided to put into effect lessons learned in the first seven months of the programme,” the governor stated.
This review, according to him, includes a re-examination of the entire vendor-recruitment and payment processes to secure better value for money through biometric verification.
“The 2016/17 school session has begun with enrollment of pupils that is projected to rise to more than 2m pupils. We have decided to delay the commencement of our primary SFP in this session until this re-examination is concluded, and we are reimbursed by the Office of the Vice President (OVP) for the matching grant to cover part of the expenses incurred on the programme, from January to July 2016,” he said.
El-Rufai also stated that, “We were encouraged to be a pilot state for the School Feeding Programme, and began implementing the programme when we did, based on assurances that we will be reimbursed for the feeding of pupils in primary classes 1 to 3, which account for more than 60% of the monthly cost of the feeding.
“We are aware that the OVP is making every effort to hasten the reimbursement to enable the state to continue this laudable implementation of a key APC manifesto commitment.
“We made a start at the rehabilitation of schools and the provision of furniture, water and toilets. With more than N6bn already spent to make over 400 schools better, a gargantuan investment is required to extend it to all our 4,265 primary schools.
“This, we are committed to achieving. We have also realized that what our state education needs is a total rebuilding programme of classrooms and physical facilities, and intensive teacher training, rather than rehabilitation of dilapidated and congested facilities manned by largely unqualified teachers. We intend to complete existing contracts, while launching a comprehensive rebuilding programme in 2017, by God’s Grace.”