AREGBESOLA SETTING A GOOD TEMPLATE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NATIONWIDE SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAMME

The Aregbesola administration in Osun State has completely overhauled the programme and officially launched of O-MEALS on 30th April 2012 and the . implementation in all 1,378 Public Primary Schools till date.

The State Government endorsed and signed the Osun Elementary School Feeding Transition Strategy Plan with representatives of the Board of Partnership for Child Development (PCD), Imperial College, London, on 22nd November 2012. Of the 13 original pilots, the State of Osun is the only state currently implementing the programme. Osun has since 2012 redesigned and scaled up its programme considerably. The Osun State HGSFHP, now known as Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O-MEALS) commenced as a pilot programme.
Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFHP) was introduced through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) 2004 Act. Federal Government of Nigeria in collaboration with New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other International Development Partners, developed the Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFHP). The programme was launched on Monday 26 September, 2005. Designed for minimum of one meal a day to each primary school pupil.

Representatives of various states in Nigeria had just ended their three-day study of the Osun State school feeding programme with a vow to follow the template set by the state. They concluded that the Osun State Government has set a good template for the implementation of the nationwide school feeding programme.
Speaker after speaker commended the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, for identifying school feeding as one huge opportunity for social welfare and an instrument of economic strength for Nigeria.
The coordinator of the National Home Grown School Feeding programme, Abimbola Adesanya, had led to the Osun State a team, which came to understudy Osun State school feeding programme, O’ Meal. Adesanya commended Osun State for what she described as the ingenious way it has moved the programme from what it was originally to an enviable one.
She said: “National Home Grown  School Feeding programme is part of Federal Government’s effort to uplift indigent out of poverty in the country.
“Our coming to Osun was basically to have insight into the synergy within the government structure in running the programme, the strength and challenges involved.
“The programme is for the people and it has transformed the state’s education and economic activities.” The representative of Oyo State, Folashade Adekunle, giving her commendation on the feeding programme, said: “We have learnt so many things sir and we going back to our state to implement. “We are going to see how this thing can fit into our state.
Governor Aregbesola said social investment on the youths, particularly school children, is necessary in order to eradicate poverty in the society.
He stated that more than half of the population of the country live in abject poverty, saying therefore government must get the school feeding programme right.
According to him,  poverty makes everything difficult for human existence, adding that everything should be done to alleviate it in all ramifications.
Aregbesola charged the Federal Government to sustain its fight against corruption because it contributes immensely to the level of poverty in the country.
He averred that if the Federal Government succeeds in introducing and sustaining the Home Grown School Feeding, the country’s economy is on the way to total recovery.
He stated that if the feeding programme had been introduced a decade ago by successive governments, the horrendous killing and destruction the country is witnessing today in the North East would not have arisen.
He stated that O’Meal is an all-inclusive programme, which is impacting on all stakeholders in the state.
 “If the Federal Government gets this national feeding programme right, we will be back on the right track.”. 
Aregbesola noted that with the state feeding over 252,000 pupils with high content nutrients, it is developing their physical and mental faculties as well securing their tomorrow and by extension the future of the state and country.
He added that with the agriculture products being sourced locally, the programme also has huge economic impact in the state through empowerment of all stakeholders participating in the O’Meal.
He disclosed that his government continues to run the school feeding programme despite the harsh economic situation because there is will-power and commitment on the part of government and those in charge of the programme.
Aregbesola said further: “We are able to go this far because of our sheer will power.
“If this kind of programme had been embraced a decade ago, the kind of heinous crime the Boko Haram is unleashing on the country wouldn’t have been heard off.”
The Deputy Governor of Osun State, Titi Laoye-Tomori, said the feeding programme has eradicated the out-of-school syndrome in the state and has been increasing school enrollment significantly at the elementary level.
Laoye-Tomori, who is also the Commissioner for Education, said the O’Meal is a multi-sectoral programme involving many stakeholders, which informs the success being recorded. She said the school feeding programme is a win-win situation for all the people involved. “Since the introduction of the programme, enrollment has jumped significantly and out-of-school syndrome has been mitigated.”
Inwalomhe Donald, a public affairs analyst writes from Benin City (inwalomhe.donald@yahoo.com)
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