The Federal Government’s national Home-Grown School Feeding Programme launched in Abuja on Thursday may have run into trouble waters even before it kicks off as state governments say they lacked the funds to cover their own part of the cost of the project, the Punch reported.
The school meal programme is one of the cardinal campaign promises of the ruling All Progressives Congress. The Federal Government provides sixty percent of funds for the scheme, while state governments are expected to provide the remaining forty per cent as counterpart funding.
The programme is expected to provide a meal a day for over 24 million primary schoolchildren.
State government officials told the Punch that the feeding programme was not their priority.
They explained that their governments have been struggling to pay salaries following the cut in allocation due to the drop in oil prices.
At least 28 states owe workers between one and 9 months salary arrears. Workers of states like Ekiti and Ondo recently embarked on strike to protest the non-payment of salaries.
The Special Adviser on Media and Communication to the Bauchi State Governor, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, said the school feeding programme was not a priority for the government. He said the government would rather focus on upgrading educational infrastructure.
Yakubu said, “We in Bauchi State are a part of the All Progressives Congress and we share the dreams and aspirations of the Federal Government.
“The issue, as laudable as it is, is not the priority of this administration because, in the first place, the whole educational system in the state has been left to rot.
“The priority of this administration is to restore educational infrastructure in the state. When this is done, incentives to get pupils to school like the school feeding programme, will then be given due and necessary attention.”
Similarly, the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, said that he would not be able to implement the free school feeding programme as requested by the Federal Government due to lack of funds.
According to the Director of Press Affairs, Samuel Nanle, “The governor has said the state is willing to support the scheme but given the present financial predicaments, it cannot. The state is, however, working on a modality to see how it can stimulate school enrollment and primary education in the state.”
He added, “The Special interventions in that sector will see to the recruitment of about 5,000 teachers, supply of free basic books, uniforms and then supplemental feeding subject to improvement of funds for the first two or three levels of the primary schools.”
Almost all the states government spoken to by the newspaper said they lacked the fund to implement the programme.