The Kaduna State School Feeding Experience - Remarks by Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, at the launch of the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme Strategy, Abuja, 09 June 2016

The Kaduna State APC government places the highest priority to educating our children and began implementing a multi-prong approach to improve access, quality and outcomes in the sector. In 2016, over 35% of our budget has been earmarked for education to cover the costs of (1) renovation and furnishing of our primary and secondary schools, (2) enhanced teacher training and comfort (3) closer monitoring and inspection of schools and teachers (4) provision of books and working tools (5) provision of free uniforms in our secondary schools (6) increase in daily spending from N33 to N180 per secondary school student for three meals (7) improved pedagogy trial using 4,000 pre-loaded student-teacher tablet PCs in selected schools for SSS2 students from September 2016 (8) free, compulsory basic education for all, and (9) free primary school feeding programme.

The Kaduna State Primary School feeding program (SFP) is currently in its 18th week. The Programme was launched January 2016 with the number of primary schools before and at the commencement of  the SFP, are 4046 and 4256 respectively. This is largely because the Army and Police Children's Schools applied to be included in the programme.

The programme was launched as a direct intervention in the health and nutrition of primary school pupils in Kaduna. It is part of our project to expand access to education. We knew that the programme would save parents money, expand the demand for farm products and create jobs for the catering vendors. In a sense, winning for our children meant winning for our farmers and caterers. It also gives our Government the moral authority to enforce the provisions of UBEC Act, and the Street Hawking and Begging (Prohibition) Law recently enacted by our State House of Assembly. In Kaduna State no parent has an excuse for his child - girl or boy - not to be in school.

Since 18th January 2016, the Kaduna State Government has been providing one meal for at least 1.5m pupils every school day. Pupil enrollment in  Primary 1-6 before SFP was 1,007,096. Enrollment rose to 1,590,859 at the commencement of SFP.

There is a set menu for all public primary schools in the state. The menu could be adjusted without compromising the nutritional quality, based on relative seasonal scarcity or the widespread unpopularity of particular meal items such as beans pottage which the children were clearly not fond of.  On Fridays, when schools close by 12 noon, we give the children a drink and snacks.

We began by sending a team to study the Osun feeding programme and learnt many lessons from its successes and challenges. We also sought the technical assistance of the office of the Vice President and held extensive discussions with experts from PCD to ensure that our thoughts, vision and approach were doable and on the right track. We debated extensively and decided against doing a pilot of a few schools but went for a 'big-bang' statewide implementation, and effecting adjustments and corrections as we moved along.

We then began implementing the Programme by identifying women already cooking around the schools and invited them to join the scheme. We  worked with the headmasters, traditional rulers, APC party leaders and Parent Teacher's Associations (PTAs) to identify suitable candidates for the programme. They were encouraged to form cooperative societies and elect leaders that will be signatories to the bank accounts we required them to open. Many of the participants have no capital to provide food be paid after the fact, so the state government had to be providing funds weekly to purchase the raw food ingredients for cooking.

The food vendors were trained for a week on food hygiene and sanitation practices, and each vendor was assigned to feed no more than 250 pupils in a given day, in order not to overstretch their capacities and create quality problems.

The key index for the successful management of the programme is therefore hinged on the prompt and timely release of funds to all cooperative societies actively monitored by the Education Intervention Committee - a cabinet committee with representatives of ministries of agriculture, health, education and local government but chaired by the Finance Commissioner. There is a special assistant to the Governor in charge of the Programme that monitors implementation and raises red flags direct to my office. In addition, there are technical committees at state, local government and ward levels to check on defaulters.

We spend N318m every week (about N4bn every school term) in these lean times to feed our children. The catering vendors are mostly recruited from within the community they serve. This ensures that they produce most hygienic meals for the pupils, and we have not had a single case of unwholesome meals or food poisoning. We have about 17,000 of these vendors, each of whom recruits other staff (an average of four women) to help them. Getting the funds across to these vendors is a challenge in parts of the state where banking presence is low or non-existent.

As outlined earlier, in order to effectively manage the programme, the vendors  are organized in clusters of 255 Cooperative societies formed with women leaders. Several women NGO groups have offered to provide free monitoring  services on the conduct of the programme. Communities, PTAs and School-based Management Committees across all the 255 wards of our 23 local governments are beginning to take ownership by supporting the monitoring of the supply and distribution of the meals on the agreed time, quality and quantity.

Given the scale of the undertaking, some of our people doubted that it could be done. There were also concerns regarding whether we should not just focus solely on the physical conditions of most of the primary schools. We inherited a baleful legacy of dilapidated schools, inadequate classrooms, and no furniture for nearly 80% of the pupils. The schools also often lacked water and toilet facilities. The government of Kaduna State responded by launching a simultaneous school rehabilitation programme. It is a massive commitment to fix the more than 4000 public primary schools in the state and transform them into conducive places for the delivery of quality education. We have made a choice to prioritize SFP because of its lifetime impact on the pupils brain, mind and body.

In almost six months of running the school feeding programme, we can attest to its impact in improved nutrition for children, job creation for catering vendors and expanded demand for farm produce. Indeed, some of our vendors had to resort to buying materials from cheaper sources in the neighbouring states. It is also the only government initiative, along with free basic education programme that truly touches every household and community in the state particular the poorest and most vulnerable.

On account of the increased awareness and extended need, the Kaduna State Government will extend the SFP to nursery classes (an additional 300,000 children) in July 2016. We are encouraged to do this by the commitment of the federal government to provide matching grant to cover the cost of feeding pupils in classes 1-3 of the primary schools. We are submitting our claims with all records next week and look forward to the expeditious treatment of the request.

Your Excellency Mr. Vice President, ladies and gentlemen, this laudable Programme is a work-in-progress, has been very challenging to implement and we estimate that between one and five percent of the school feeding expenditure leaks. We have been responding by tightening financial controls and had to take very serious actions under the public service rules to discipline those that saw the programme as an opportunity for corruption. On our part, we are not only committed to its continuation but shall be fine-tuning the programme going forward, and strengthening the monitoring mechanism.  

Thank your for listening and God Bless.

Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, OFR
Governor of Kaduna State

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