By Evelyn Omotoye
As schools begin a new academic calendar today in Ondo State, the state government has reeled out farm market locations in each of the local government areas of the state and distributed the menu plan to the Cooks in charge of the homegrown school feeding programme for public primary schools in the state.
This, according to the Special Adviser to the State Governor on Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Mrs Olubunmi Ademosu, is to ensure the smooth running of the programme in the new academic session in compliance with the stipulated rules and regulations from the Federal Government.
Ademosu who stated this on Friday while having a meeting with stakeholders on the programme in Akure, charged the cooks on strict adherence to the menu plan in preparing the meals for the pupils captured under the scheme.
The menu plan, she said, is a sort of timetable for the meal to be prepared and served the pupils in order to ensure that the essence of the programme which is to feed pupils of primary 1-3 in public schools with at least one good nutritional meal per school day is realised.
She also explained that the farm markets which are to be run by the state Ministry of Agriculture and headed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture, are established for the cooks to get food stuffs directly from the farmers.
Her words: “The state government is committed to making sure its people get the numerous opportunities offered by President Buhari’s administration. This is why we had to key in and start the homegrown school feeding programme in our state so that our children could benefit. It now behoves on all the stakeholders including the cooks to make it work and become sustainable.
“The cooks are meant to stick to the rules of the programme and prepare the meal according to the menu plan given to them and patronise the farm markets for the food stuffs. The markets are to supply the stuffs at farm (wholesales) prices for more economic value. These are instructions from the Federal Government and we should abide by them strictly”.
Ademosu, who reiterated that the Federal Government school feeding programme is a social intervention aimed at alleviating poverty, maintained that it is not a money making venture and as such should be seen as work of mercy and treated with all sincerity to ensure its success and sustenance.
She, therefore, charged all stakeholders, especially the local government implementation team in charge of the programme to be more committed and steer clear of any form of sharp practices or illegality, warning that the project is being closely monitored by the Federal Government and that anyone caught doing the wrong thing would face the consequences.
“Let us all be dedicated. Let us be sincere with this programme and allow the cooks to do their jobs. Let the era of giving returns or taking bribe be bye gone. We should not harass them. Cooks, be neat and give your best, obey all the rules and regulations of the programme. And the desk officers must be up and doing and be ready to give explanation for whatever goes on within their jurisdiction. There are penalties for offenders”, she emphasised.
The Permanent Secretary, Public and Intergovernmental Relations, Mrs Tope Ojolo stated that the stakeholders’ meeting became imperative in a bid to improve upon and sustain the modalities of the school feeding programme so as not to derail from its path and avoid errors which initially greeted the programme on commencement.
Ojolo noted that the programme, apart from giving one good nutritional meal to pupils, is aimed at improving attendance, enrollment and performance as well as add economic value to the society through the engagement of vendors for the programme, assuring that all the crises that prevented some cooks and schools from benefiting would be sorted out fast.
Also speaking at the meeting, the State Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Bode Famose commended the Akeredolu-led administration for giving support for all the Federal Government programmes, projects and policies, urging the people of the state to take advantage of the available opportunities to raise their standard of living and better their society.
Meanwhile, farm markets centres and addresses in each local government of the state were given out to the cooks and report template forms were distributed to the schools’ headteachers while a cash prize was given to the best cook coordinator by Mrs. Ademosu.
The stakeholders at the meeting include the Special Assistant to the Governor on School Feeding, Mrs Victoria Akinlolu, a consultant and retired Permanent Secretary, Barr. Felix Alonge, the cook coordinators, the implementation team comprising an Education officer who is to liaise with SUBEB, Grievance Redress officer in charge of complaints from schools and vendors, an Environmental sanitarian who is to ensure that the food is prepared and served under hygienic conditions as well as check the vendors’ medical fitness certificates; and a Desk officer to oversee the activities of the team in each local government area of the state.