The Federal Government received praise from the World Bank, United Nations Children’s Fund, and the Department of State Services, for N100billion earmarked for school feeding program in the 2024 budget.
They lauded it as an effective means to bring children from the streets back to the classroom during a Public-Private Partnership and Innovative Investments in School Feeding program in Abuja.
During the event, Dr. Tunde Adekola, a Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank in the African region, expressed pride in the institution’s association with the school feeding initiative.
He encouraged participants to find optimal ways to support the ‘Nigerian project’ and stressed the importance of leveraging interventions and schemes for a sustainable and cost-effective school feeding program.
“The World Bank is very much interested to continue to leverage how to support this programme. The purpose of all of us here is to support the government of Nigeria to be able to achieve the objective. No matter how small, we need to share knowledge, experiences or close initiatives either in the public or private sector. The second issue we have to focus on is how to strengthen the system.
“I am putting it on the table to say the World Bank is ready to support and focus on what the school feeding will be able to achieve. We need to make sure the issue of stunting for children is reduced and have balanced nutrition for our children,” he noted.
UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist, Godwin Odo, affirmed ongoing support for Nigeria’s school feeding project, believing it would enhance children’s enrollment. While expressing commitment, Odo acknowledged the need for improvement to strengthen the initiative.
Nneka Bush, the DSS Deputy Director overseeing critical agencies, programs, and departments, echoed similar sentiments. She emphasized the significance of the service’s continued support for the program, highlighting the potential risk of criminals exploiting children’s vulnerabilities and exacerbating security concerns.
She said, “Of course, we know that developmental issues and security have a symbiotic relationship where concerns and challenges are highly minimised. That is why the service under the leadership of Alhaji Yusuf Magaji Bichi (DSS director-general) is fully committed to supporting such laudable projects like the homegrown school feeding programme.
“We understand and appreciate that at this level, we need to get the young ones in schools so they are no longer vulnerable to criminals who would like to exploit their vulnerabilities and continue to exacerbate security issues that we have at the local level.
“So, it’s important for us as a service to give the kind of support that we have always given. We’re here to continue to strengthen that collaboration with the government to ensure that our country is better off for it.”
Dr. Yetunde Adeniji, the Senior Special Assistant to President Bola Tinubu on the School Feeding program, commended the President for earmarking N100 billion for the initiative.
Tinubu had revealed this allocation in the 2024 budget the previous month, emphasizing its role as a stimulus to boost school attendance and address the issue of out-of-school children during the signing of the appropriation bill into law at the State House.
Adeniji, speaking with journalists in Abuja, highlighted that the allocation reflected Tinubu’s empathy and compassion for Nigerian children.
She said, “The President said we are going to feed 10 million children and we are already working with the data that we already have. We’re talking about children and hunger basically. The school feeding programme is an essential part of everyday children. And we are here today with development partners, private sector and stakeholders to look for innovative ways to see how we can project the programme.
“It’s a programme that if well managed well can bring tremendous opportunities to every society and community. Government cannot do this alone. We all have to work together to see how best to help the government to be able to help our nation. That is where we are here today for this programme. So we’re working well with what we have.”