By Timothy Agbor/OSOGBO
Five hundred thousand pupils in Osun State public primary schools are being fed daily by the State Government under its school feeding and health programme tagged: “O Meals” thus costing the state government N3.2 billion yearly.
The number of pupils, according to the State Deputy Governor, who doubles as the state Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, while briefing journalists on Thursday, 15th May, 2014 in Osogbo, rose to 500,000 from 155,318 pupils in 2012 when the feeding programme was re-packaged.
Speaking on the benefits the programme to the people of the state, Mrs. Laoye-Tomori said O’ Meal scheme has significantly increased enrolment and retention of pupils in schools stressing that it costs the state government a sum of N3.2 billion to fund the programme on a yearly basis.
The Deputy Governor then berated those criticizing the O-Meals policy of the Aregbesola led administration as being ignorants or out of mischief or both, stressing that the programme has received superlative accolades from both within and outside the country.
Her words: “we started with the feeding of 155,318 pupils with one meal a day as at 30th April, 2012, and by the beginning of this academic session the figure has risen to over 500,000 pupils being fed daily. The cost of feeding 155,318 pupils was N7.7 million per day, N38.5 million per week, and or N169.4 million per month. Presently, it costs N3.2 billion, to fund this programme on a yearly basis”.
Mrs Laoye Tomori explained further that the O-Meals programme has boosted the production capacities of farmer-suppliers of farm produce, particularly poultry farmers and beef suppliers, who supply the protein contents of the menu.
The Deputy Governor maintained that farmers in the state are involved in all the components of the food menu and this has led to increased prosperity of smallholder farmers.
According too her, “the state government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in collaboration with Osun based agro business company invested a sum of N253 million for the implementation of Osun Fisheries Out-growers Production Scheme (OFOPS).
The scheme has empowered 462 fish out-growers for mass fish production in the state. Presently, the scheme supplies about 400 metric tonnes of fish weekly for the O-Meals programme.
“In the same vein, the cultivation of cocoyam through a cocoyam rebirth programme is currently being pursued by the state government. 1000 cocoyam farmers (selected across the nine federal constituencies in the state) were trained and assisted to mass-cultivate pink cocoyam for inclusion in the school feeding menu. Women farmers were also trained to boost the production of cocoyam in the state.
“We have also used cocoyam programme to empower over 300 former O’Yes Cadets. They were given N100,000 each to trade as cocoyam middle-men; a go in-between the farmers and the food vendors.
“As at December last year, this programme feeds the pupils with 35 heads of cattle, 8400 crates of eggs, and 15,000 whole chickens on a weekly basis. These food items are sourced locally, thus improving the domestic economy through the activities of ready markets that were not there hitherto.
“Under the new feeding arrangement, a total of 3,007 food vendors/cooks recruited across the state were trained and kitted to serve the midday meals for the pupils.
“The food vendors formed 124 Cooperative Investment and Credit Societies (CICS). All of them are women among who are widows who needed financial support for their respective families.
“This has consequently provided employment and empowerment for the women of the state who are now productively engaged.
“Government has also increased the cost of feeding a child from the initial N30 to N50 with additional transport subsidy of N4000 for each of the food vendors. This is to improve quality of service and guarantee good profit to food vendors”.