Barely four weeks after the launch of the free school feeding programme in Ondo State by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Parents,pupils and other stakeholders in the education sector in Ondo State has condemned the stoppage of the programme in the state.
It will recalled that the programme also known as the National Home Grown School Feeding programme was launched by the vice president during the his two-day official visit to Ondo State.
They described the programme as a trick to deceive parents and primary school pupils in the state, saying the programme had failed to achieve its desired objectives within its first few weeks in the state.
They accused officials handling the programme in the state of not paying the cooks which had been approved by the federal government.
The Parents who stated this under the auspices of Concerned Parents of Primary School Pupils, disclosed that most of the cooks employed under the programme had stopped bringing food to schools.
Speaking on behalf of the parents, Mr Ademola Folarin, alleged the programme is being faced with financial challenge in the state while all the cooks have stopped to feed pupils in public schools.
Folarin decried the way and manner in which the programme is being run in the state, and stressed the need for the operators of the programme to follow the guidelines as stipulated by the Federal Government.
He said that pupils had not been fed for the past two weeks, lamenting that "the home grown school feeding program had not been consistent since it was launched in the state.
"We have been monitoring the implementation of this initiative for the past two weeks and we can confirm to you that this programme has been a failure in the state.
"Many of the cooks have stopped feeding the pupils claiming that they had not been receiving money to prepare the food. They claimed that they were only managing with little resources made available to them.
"The programme is a total failure in Ondo State and there is need to urgently review the programme while money should be made available for the programme to salvage the appalling situation"
According to the parents, apart from the Federal Government fund injected into the programme, they recalled that the state government also earmarked about N4.2billion in the 2018 budget as part of its counterpart fund to run the programme in the state.
Folarin said: " the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, during the launching the programme in the state expressed his administration's readiness to recruit about 1500 medically-fit and trained cooks to ensure the success of the scheme.*
However, some head teachers who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the low quality of the food being served and called on the state government to involve officials of the education ministry for proper monitoring and supervision of the cooks .
The head teacher said that the food vendors have been threatening to quit the programme unless the FG intervened and addressed the noticeable lapses especially in the area of finance.
They said that the home grown school feeding programme had not been consistent since it was launched in Ondo state.
According to some of them who declined to mention their names, the cooks have stopped feeding the pupils, claiming that they had not been receiving money to prepare the food from the government.
They however urged the state government to involve officials of the education ministry for monitoring and supervision of the cooks.
Investigation conducted by our Correspondent who went around Akure, the state capital revealed that the few schools selected for the programme in the state benefited for just three days before the visit of the Vice President Prof Osinbajo, and three weeks after he left, the programme only experienced challenges, most noticeably in the area of fund.
The Politico observed that the organization of the programme was faulty from the onset because selected schools were not giving adequate information about the food vendors attached to their various schools.
At the Methodist Primary School, Gbogi, Akure, when our Correspondent visited the school, it was discovered that the food vendor attached to the school to provide food for about 65 pupils in the school had disappeared without any prior notice. It took the school management a lot of efforts before they could get her telephone number.
A source in the school said:"It was after this that she was asked why she didn't show up in school and she told the school management that she has not received any alert to prepare food for the pupils."
Also at St Peter's Demonstration Primary School, the situation was almost the same, as well as at Fanibi Primary School, Annex and Sacred Heart Primary School.
Pupils were seen waiting during the school break for the cooks to arrive, but none of them came till the end of the break time as they failed to appear.
Besides, findings revealed that the food provided for the pupils were of low quality and quantity.
Some pupils who spoke confirmed the suspension of the free meal by the government's cooks.
It would be recalled that in February, governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu's led administration in the state launched the federal government National Home grown school feeding programme for pupils in primary one to three in public school across the state.
Akeredolu, while launching the programme expressed the state government readiness by recruiting over 1,500 medically fit and trained cooks.
Also over N4.2billion naira was earmarked in the 2018 budget of the state as counterpart fund for the school feeding program.
Speaking on the development, the State Commissioner for Information, Yemi Olowolabi, said there was delayed in the payment of the money of the cooks due to some challenges encountered in the payment of the money.
Olowolabi said there were discrepancies in the account of the food vendors saying most of the accounts failed to tally with their Bank Verification Number (BVN)
He however, said all the accounts would be harmonized by next week and the payment would be made to ensure the success of the scheme.