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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Over 1300 Pupils Drop Out of 3 Schools as Free Feeding Program Flops in Kano

Lukman Abdulmalik
In 2021, the Kano State government approved and disbursed the sum of N220,000,00 million to 44 Local Government Areas (LGAs) as contribution funds for school feeding programs in Kano State under the National Home Grown School Feeding Program (NHGSFP).
The program aims to improve the enrollment of primary school children (ages 1-3) and reduce the drop-out rate, currently estimated at over 30%. It is also developed to address the most important basic needs of schoolchildren and provide the nutrition needed to engage successfully with their education.
The intention was to create a cycle of productivity by sustaining and connecting local farmers to nationwide and global markets while providing the next generation with the sustenance necessary for education and growth. (nasims.gov.ng)
In this investigation, Lukman Abdulmalik visited three primary schools in Kiru, Garko, and Minjibir Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Kano State. He revealed how two schools never benefited from the program while the other one faced inconsistent feeding, making the headmasters use their money to buy confectionaries in place of the feeding program.
Kuraye Town in Garko LGA
Ali Muhammad Abdullahi is the Headmaster of Kuraye Primary School in Garko LGA, who spends his salary to cater to pupils’ feeding needs in order to attract them to come to school.
He narrates that “I have never used my salary for my wife and children, because I use the money I earn from my farming activity as a source of income to take care of my family.
“Despite my low earnings, I buy biscuits, exercise books, and pencils for the pupils in order to attract their attention to school.
“I have to do this because, from the time the school feeding program started during COVID-19 to this moment that I am talking to you, Kuraye Primary School has never benefited from it.
“You see, because no provision of the feeding program was made for this school by the government, it has reduced the enrollment of pupils; some have dropped out of school to assist their parents at home.
According to him, Kuraye Primary School has 259 pupils, but hardly 100 could be counted because of the absence of the feeding program.
Enrollment sheet of Kuraye Primary School Pupils – PC: Lukman Abdulmalik.
“As a level 03 civil servant under the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), I earned N31,600, but on a daily basis, I spend N1,000 to buy confectionaries (biscuits, chin-chin, and bread) for the pupils.
“Each day I perform such a gesture, it attracts at least 10 to 15 students per class.
“Despite wooing pupils, some of them are not satisfied. Those who are not satisfied sleep in class to show they are hungry, and in the process, they lose focus,” Abdullahi added.
The National Feeding Program
The National Home Grown School Feeding Program (NHGSFP) aims to deliver a cost-effective home-grown school feeding program with a specific focus on increasing school enrollment, reducing the incidence of malnutrition, especially among the poor, empowering cooks, and supporting local agriculture through smallholder farmers, thereby stimulating economic growth through the socio-economic value chain.
The primary focus of the program is to provide free meals with food procured from local smallholder farmers, strengthening communities across the country.
The NHGSFP was created to provide a nutritious and balanced meal to 5.5 million schoolchildren in grades 1–3. The program also aims to improve the enrollment of primary school children and reduce the drop-out rate, currently estimated at over 30%.
Most of the shortages are due to poverty, and this program is built to address the most important basic needs of schoolchildren and provide the nutrition needed to engage successfully with their education. By linking the program to local food supply chains, the community is engaged in creating social support beyond simply providing meals to certain children.
In 2021, over 44,000 cooks were engaged in the program, feeding over 4 million students in 26 Nigerian states. Kano is also a beneficiary.
Corruption behind the scenes
Ibrahim Garba Maryam is an anti-corruption advocate and former Personal Assistant to the Ex-executive Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Maryam Mansur Yola.
In an interview, he said that school feeding is one of the greatest scams in Kano.
“In Kano State, the school feeding program has not yielded any positive effect due to the corruption surrounding it.
“In 2022, the Federal Government increased the cost of feeding a primary school pupil from N70 to N100 and will be spending about N1bn daily to feed an estimated 10 million children benefiting from the scheme across the country.
“Kano State usually gets about 200 million when the feeding allocation is shared to provide a launch for the pupils.
“In Kano during COVID-19, when the feeding started, a kitchen was provided where the chiefs could cook food for the pupils.
“The feeding program was executed legitimately while students were enjoying the meals provided, ranging from rice and stew to yam and egg to milk, spaghetti, and others.
“In the afternoon, a pupil in school is entitled to a plate of whatever is provided as a meal for the day.
“But as time went on, the feeding program flopped, because the process failed because of the actors involved: the contractors (cooks), SUBEB, and the Ministry for Local Government.
“The idea was to cook the food on the school premises and have it supervised by inspectors from the Ministry for Local Government and the Local Education Authority (LEA) officials before distributing it to the pupils.
“However, since the contracts were awarded to government officials, in some schools, the food is cooked elsewhere, brought to the schools, and shared with the pupils; no one knows how hygienic the food is.
“There is no book-log to find the name of contractors of the program; the milk and the water, which are meant to fight malnutrition, have been hijacked by the unknown contractors,” he declared.
Why a Parent withdrew his child from school in Kuraye Town
Kabiru Isah, the 67-year-old father of Sabiu, a 7-year-old, told this reporter that his child has not been attending school for over 2 years due to a lack of feeding in the school.
He narrated: “During COVID-19, when the school feeding program started, I reinstated my child to school as I believed our children would be fed properly, but the case was different.
“I have no money to cater for my family; whenever my child returns from school, he always cries of hunger, but there is no food to be given to him.
“One day I decided to disengage him from the school so he could learn handy work to sustain himself.”
Sabiu Kabiru told this reporter that his ambition is to become a Lawyer to defend human rights and hold governments accountable in the future.
“I want to continue schooling, but I can’t concentrate because of hunger. The management does not feed us except for our headmaster (Fmr. Mallam Auwal Ibrahim), who usually buys biscuits for us.
“So due to my lack of concentration and frequent complaints to my father, he decided to disengage me from school.”
Kabiru, who is currently learning how to repair bicycles, said, “My boss at work used to feed me every morning with tea and bread; sometimes he brings already cooked food from home and shares it with all his apprentices.
Sabiu Kabiru, repairing bicycle (PC: Lukman Abdulmalik)
“Not only does he give us food, but he also gives us stipends (N200.00) of two hundred Naira on a daily basis.
Kabiru, who dreams of becoming a lawyer, said: “I have been saving N200 so I can resume school without thinking of the school feeding program.”
Massive Dropout and Malnutrition Affecting Pupils in Larabawa, Kiru LGA
On a Monday morning of June 5, 2023, a site visit by this reporter met Larabawa Primary School pupils in Kiru LGA, looking tired and restless. No fewer than 10 students were in attendance.
Labrawa School has only two classes, which are all in bad shape, with a headmaster and one class teacher. The school has been the only learning environment in the community.
Mallam Abubakar Usaini, a head teacher at Larabawa Primary School, lamented that pupils have massively dropped out of school as there is no provision for food from the state government.
Mallam Abubakar Usaini, Headmaster, Larabawa Primary School (PC: Lukman Abdulmalik)
He said: “Pupils no longer attend school in this Larabawa community in Kiru LGA because of the failed feeding program.
“Since the feeding program started, Larabawa Primary School has never benefited from the scheme, and this has prevented so many pupils from attending school.
“On many occasions, our pupils are looking malnourished because their parents couldn’t feed them well at home, as they depend on the school feeding program.”
Usaini further disclosed that “as a form of motivation, I usually buy snacks with my money for the pupils in the community to encourage them to attend school.
“Whenever I bought cookies or snacks, the community leader, Mallam Usman Habibu, had to go round the corners and crannies of the community to announce to the parents and the pupils that there would be school on the next day and there would be the provision of cookies. (Mallam Habibu confirmed to this reporter that he plays this role for the Head master).
“Any day I buy the cookies, pupils will fill the school. But on the contrary, it is hard to count up to 10 pupils in the school; they prefer to hawk or go to the farm to assist their parents.”
Scanty Pupils of Larabawa Primary School (PC: Lukman Abdulmalik)
“Most of the children are looking malnourished because they don’t feed well at home,” he added.
In an interaction with Amina Musa, a 6-year-old pupil at Larabawa Primary School, she told this reporter: “I have never benefited from the feeding in the school, the day my parents cook for me to take to school, or if our headmaster is sharing cookies, I usually attend.
“But whenever there is no food, my parents send me to hawk Awara (soybean cake) so we can get money to feed ourselves.
“I want to be attending school on a regular basis so I can learn and become a better person in the future.”
How parents’ contributions fail to sustain pupils’ education in Larabawa
As part of the parents’ contribution to the Larabawa community to provide their children with a good education, parents in the community contribute to cooking their personal food to feed the pupils in the community public school.
Aminu Laban, a parent in the community and the founder of the initiative, explained: “As we noticed that our children are not attending school because of the absence of the feeding program, in 2021, I decided to organize a meeting on how we could help reduce the massive dropout of our pupils in the school.
“I spoke to some philanthropists and other individuals so that we can contribute food items to support the government and our children.
“Some people contribute foodstuffs (rice, beans, cooking oil, and seasoning), while others slaughter their chickens to provide protein in the meal.
“As time passed, some parents were unable to contribute again.
Aminu Laban, a parent in Larabawa community (PC: Lukman Abdulmalik)
The communal efforts were able to provide a single meal each day, which is either rice and beans with tomato stew and a small slice of chicken meat or beans porridge and pad per pupil.
Laban also disclosed that “the rest of the community members who agreed to contribute could not sustain the initiative of the majority of people who were contributing resources and pulled out due to a lack of funds or shortage of grains in their houses; this resulted in the failure of our noble initiative.”
During a particular visit to the school, this reporter observed that women volunteers take turns cooking food in their homes (a rotational cooking style where women involved join their colleague whose turn it is to cook and prepare the food in her house) and take it to the community public school.
Hajia Turai explains how women in the communities take turns cooking for their children.
“When the food items needed are complete, one of us (15 women in the community) takes turns to cook the meal in her house. The rest of us gathered there to give her a helping hand.
“When the food is ready, 3 to 5 of us take the meal, trek about a kilometer (say 5 to 10 minutes) with the food to the school, and distribute it to the pupils.
“This only happens on the days that our men (our husbands) have contributed enough food items or money to buy the cooking items.
“When there are no foodstuffs to cook, we individually give our children whatever we have that can sustain them in school; this is how we have been carrying on since we do not enjoy the government’s free food program.”
Pupils’ drop-out rate in Kano
The United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) recently lamented that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
According to UNICEF, the country has produced one out of every five children in the world, with statistics showing that the government spends only 2.4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on both health and education.
A World Bank report in June 2022 indicates that Nigeria has more than 11 million out-of-school children between the ages of 6 and 15.
The report indicates that Kano State has 837,479 out-of-school children.
This figure may include children like Sabiu Usman (Kuraye Primary School), Amina Musa (Larabawa Primary School), and Zainab Aliyu of Yanzaki Primary School who no longer attend classes.
Inconsistency Feeding Program at Yanzaki Primary School, Minjibir LGA
Like Larabawa community and Kuraye Primary School in Garko town, Yanzaki Primary School in Minjibir LGA also suffers massive dropouts because of the inconsistency of the school feeding program.
On a Monday afternoon of 3 July 2023 when schools resumed in Kano after the Eid-Kabir public holidays, this reporter visited Yanzaki community and spotted children roaming the streets, while some others were seen carrying out farming activities or fetching water from the well.
Speaking to this reporter, Salmanu Ibrahim, a parent of Zainab Aliyu, 9, in primary 3, narrated that the bad condition of learning at Yanzaki primary school made his daughter stop attending school.
“I love my daughter to be educated, but whenever I send her to school, she complains that they don’t teach well. And sometimes she hangs around the school and plays with her friends; this is unfortunate.
“She also complained that her friends who attend a public school in Minjibir town enjoy free meals whenever she is in school, but she doesn’t.
“So, I decided to always carry her along to the farm to work with me. And whenever there’s food, she attends.”
Probing him on the rationale behind the free feeding program, he said: “The feeding program is important to the children because it makes them concentrate on their studies while in school.
“Most of the parents do not have enough food to give to their children to take to school; so, the parents and the children depend on the free food in school.
“So, the inconsistency in the feeding program contributed to making the children not take their studies seriously.”
Mallam Ahmed Usman, Headmaster of Yanzaki Primary School, recounted that “During 2020 to 2021, there was consistency in the provision of food to the students.
“The government usually brought cooked food such as Jollof rice with meat, white rice and stew, eggs, yam, and other local dishes.
“The provision of food made Yanzaki Primary School record the highest enrolment ever with 1,191 enrolled pupils.”
Usman revealed that around March 2022, the school started experiencing inconsistencies in the delivery of food. Sometimes I use my personal money to get them locally-made chin-chin (crispy donuts) so they can stay in their classes.
Pupils’ enrollment sheet of Yanzaki Primary School, Minjibir (PC: Lukman Abdulmalik)
“However, when I asked about the delay or inconsistency in the food supply and delivery system, I kept getting the response that the government will soon make provision for it.
“From April to September 2021, there was no food for the pupils; this made them start dropping out of school.
“It was so disheartening to see that in the school I am managing, pupils are not attending; from 1,191 pupils in the school, I could hardly count 200 pupils in attendance.
“Some classes used to be empty, so I merged them together and taught them,” he said.
Pupils of Yanzaki Primary School (PC: Lukman Abdulmalik)
School feeding improves pupils’ education, health, and nutrition – Expert
Dr. Auwalu Halilu, the Kano State Coordinator of the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), said “School meal programs can help address many of these challenges.
“They are a multi-sectoral game changer that improves children’s education, health, and nutrition. More broadly, they support the whole community by providing an important safety net and strengthening food systems and economies.
“Better health and nutrition through school meals allow children to learn and perform better, broadening their educational opportunities.”
Halilu stated that school meal programs also act as an incentive for families to enroll their children in school and keep them there. Relieving parents from having to budget for lunch leads to savings of about 10 percent of the income of vulnerable households.
“By dissuading parents from marrying their daughters off early, which halts their education and can result in early pregnancies, school meals empower girls.
“School meals and complementary health interventions help build what is known as human capital, which is also the sum of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits.”
Ministry for Local Government responds to FOI request
On July 6, 2023, an FOI request was sent to the Kano State Ministry for Local Government, demanding information on the following:
1. In 2021, a sum of N220,000,000 million was approved for the feeding of primary school pupils in Kano State Public Schools in the 44 LGAs. Why was there no provision of food throughout the program in these schools: Kuraye Primary School in Garko and Larabawa Primary School in Kiru?
2. Also, the pursuant of this FOI wants to know why there was inconsistency in providing food to the pupils despite the release of funds, which has led to the drastic drop-out of pupils in Kano Public Schools.
However, despite the FOI being approved, the ministry has yet to respond while compiling this report.
On July 21, 2023, a reminder was sent to the Kano State Ministry for Local Government seeking information on the above questions, but no response was received.
Responding to the FOI request on July 13, 2023, signed by Aliyu Adamu the Deputy Director Local Government Inspection, for Honourable Commissioner, the State Ministry for Local Government in Kano said the matter in question is better directed to SUBEB for clarification.
FOI response copy by Kano Ministry for Local Government
At SUBEB, the officer incharge of the School feeding program, Shehu Sambo, Deputy Director Planning, SUBEB, was difficult to reach.
A call to his private phone number was picked by his wife, she disclosed that Sambo her husband is now late.
An FOI written for SUBEB was rejected at the open registry on July 6, 2023.
Presently, Zainab Aliyu of Yanzaki in Minjibir town and Amina Musa Larabawa in Kiru town have chosen to hawk Awara (soybean cake) and sometimes groundnut to make money for their family and save some in preparation for their marriage.
Zainab Aliyu of Yanzaki in Minjibir town (PC: Lukman Abdulmalik)
In Kuraye town, Sabiu Kabiru is now a bicycle mechanic apprentice. He wants to master the repair of bicycles to make money for himself; according to him, Western education is a forgotten issue.
This publication was originally produced by Stallion Times with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.


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