By Timothy Agbor, Osogbo
Osun State Government, southwest Nigeria has urged its counterparts in the country to emulate the school feeding programme of the state with a view to reducing the rate at which pupils drop out of school.
According to the state government, out of elementary school children which presently stands at over 10million could be tackled through school feeding programme adding that this gesture could also help in tackling youths’ restiveness by generating jobs for the myriad of unemployed youths.
The state Deputy Governor and Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, stated this on Wednesday, 11th June, 2014 in her office in Osogbo while playing host to a United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) delegates who were on an official visit to the state.
Mrs. Laoye-Tomori said the Osun School Feeding Scheme tagged O-Meals was geared towards employment generation and economic promotion which has led to the empowerment of 52 youths in fish growing business, 3,007 caterers and an appreciable number of local farmers coupled with the 40,000 employed through the Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme (OYES), employment of over 10,000 teachers and 3,000 engaged in the O-Garment scheme which has assisted in the reduction in unemployment rate in the state.
She then advised other states in the country to emulate Osun state in its school feeding programme to forestall further drop out of elementary (primary) school children across the nation.
According to her, the state presently enjoys the least unemployment rate in Nigeria with three percent unemployment rate resulting from series of people’s oriented programmes the state government has embarked upon thus ranking the state as second behind Lagos State as the state with the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Applauding efforts of the local producers of farm products going into the scheme for making dreams of the state government in the O-Meals scheme a reality, the State Deputy Governor said over 300,000 fish, 10,000 crates of eggs, an appreciable quantity and quality vegetables along with different varieties of seasonal fruits are consumed on weekly basis by children between the ages of 6 and 9 who are fed under this scheme.
Describing the state as a haven of investment to willing investors being the safest and most peaceful state in Nigeria, the state Deputy Governor called on the UNICEF to come into partnering with the state government in the actualization and sustainability of these programmes most importantly the O-Meals.
Reacting, the Nigerian Country Representative of UNICEF, Ms. Jean Gough, said her team had earlier visited Elementary Schools across the state and other ongoing project sites of the state government to physically ascertain level of achievement the state government has attained in this regard which she said was tremendous.
Ms. Gough said UNICEF was willing and ready to partner with the government of the state in an efficient, effective, innovative and people oriented programme as O-Meals with a view to impacting positively lives of more kids which could become achievable only if the programme is sustained.
She thereafter advised the state government to be involved in exchange programmes with other developed nations across the globe so as to add value to the scheme.