By Cajetan Mmuta
Anambra State has lost ten Cooks who were staff of the Federal Government’s Homegrown School Feeding Programme in the state.
Mrs Eriken Uzoamaka, Programme Manager, Homegrown School Feeding Scheme, Anambra State, who disclosed this on Thursday said the death of the cooks was a huge challenge to the running of the programme in the state.
Uzoama told newsmen on the sidelines of a two-day capacity-building workshop on Enhancing Social Protection Programme in Nigeria, organised by the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), held in Awka the state capital.
She explained that the death of some of the cooks had prevented some primary school pupils from benefitting from the programme.
According to her, some of the cooks who died since the inception of the programme were yet to be replaced, adding that the school feeding programme is one of the Social Investment Programmes of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, to cater for pupils of primary one to three
Uzoamaka said that the cooks were recruited from communities around the primary schools, verified and trained in food safety and hygiene by the national body, to provide catering service in the 21 Local Government Areas of the state.
“All the government primary schools in the state should be benefitting from this programme but due to challenges in the programme some schools are not benefiting.”
“Since the inception of the programme in 2016, about 10 cooks have died and it is affecting the programme in some schools.
“It is only the nation that can recruit and replace them, we have no right to replace them but we have written to inform the national body but they are yet to be replaced.”
“Each cook caters to about 150 pupils and they are being paid by the national level. So if you do the maths, about 150 pupils multiplied by 10 cooks, are not benefiting, “she stated.
Uzoamaka said that the high cost of food items in the country was also affecting the quality of the food prepared by the cooks.
“Another challenge is the high cost of food items in the country, it is affecting the programme and the quality of food given to the children.
“The cooks are complaining and the high cost of food items is making it difficult for them to give us adequate meals per child.
“This development has made the Federal Government agree to increase the meal price from N70 to N100, but it is yet to be implemented, ” she said.
The Programme Manager pointed out that the school feeding programme has helped to increase the population of pupils as many children ran away from private schools to enroll in government schools.