BY OBASI E. IKENGWU
The place of full-scale monitoring and evaluation exercise in realizing the objectives and benefits of government policies, programmes, projects and legislations cannot be overstressed. A retrospect or flashback into the remote and immediate causes of failure, abandonment or derailing of past and present public or private programmes and projects could be traced to lack of proper monitoring and evaluation. Be that as it may, the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, an off-shoot of N-Power being implemented by various states is not an exception. As laudable, enriching and well-thought, the programme, domicile with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development under the tutelage, guide and supervision of the State Focal Persons of the Social Management Programme has come under fire and public scrutiny with constructive, multi-faceted, sometimes baseless and unfounded criticisms. This is the case of every government programme, especially in a democracy.
On this premise, government, rather than joining issues with critics or terminate the programme, thought it wise to do the needful in strengthening the laudable package to be result-oriented, efficient, effective and durable. At the centre of this methodology was the involvement of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), a body with formidable feedback mechanism and dependable grassroot structure in information, sensitisation and mobilisation. The whole essence is to bridge the communication gap and channel loop, thereby making the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme more handy, accessible, benefitting and sustainable.
Emperical evidence from statistics and data available on the said programme revealed that upon inception till date, a whopping sum of N14 billion had been released to the participating States vendors. Again, as of March 2020, 9,196,823 pupils were receiving free meal in 53 schools across 34 States and FCT, Abuja, excluding Kwara and Bayelsa States, hopefully cueing into the programme before September 2021. Further, a monthly review shows that 103,000 food vendors and cooks are engaged and over 100 aggregators are employed by participating states to source food items locally from small-holder farmers.
Interesting, a look at the objectives and benefits of this future-blazing programme is replete with avalanche of great potentials and endowment. Coming at a time there was a colossal decline in the public school pupils population, the programme is focused at increasing the enrollment of Government Primary School children to address boy-child and girl-child school dropout syndrome, improve their nutritional and health status for effective learning, stimulate local agricultural production with enormous value-dividend implications, and enhance the economic status of local farmers by creating viable and ready market for their products through the school feeding programme as well as provide empowerment opportunities for women, improve family and local economy necessary for wealth creation and national development. On the other hand the programme guarantees stable income, more investment and higher productivity by creating outlets most predictable and assuring for their products, promote nutrition education and better eating habit, enjoy healthy and diverse balanced diet needed for healthy living and concentration for meaningful academic work and improve their adult job prospects. It goes further to encourage diversification of production by communities with special emphasis on local crops, job creation, stimulate quality education for national development, inter alia.
The NOA State Directorate, the Community Orientation and Mobilisation Officers (COMOs) and NYSC members strategic in repositioning this programme for the good of all of us should be empowered and equipped for the enumeration, monitoring and evaluation exercises using the provided Template, Document and Forms.
However, there is hope that this programme that presently captured only pupils in primary one to three will be expanded to accommodate more school children to the point of including their teachers to avoid “longer throat”as watchers when their pupils, eat their meals. Both parents and guardians should contribute to the success of the information and data generation process to make the programme worthwhile. God help us.
Obasi Eledalachi Ikengwu, is the COMO, NOA, Isuikwuato LGA, Abia State.