The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Miss Otiko Afisa Dzaba, visited some schools in Accra yesterday as part of the “My First Day at School” programme to check on the status of the School Feeding Programme.
The visit was also for the minister to assess the quality of food being provided for the children and also interact with them, since they are the beneficiaries of the programme.
Ms Dzaba disclosed that the government had released GH¢10 million to offset some debt owed caterers of the programme for the second and third terms of 2016.
She further indicated that a reconciliation of dealings executed by some caterers with the Microcredit and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) and creditors of food supplies and catering equipment during the two academic terms was being done.
Ms Dzaba emphasised that caterers should not be pressured to access food items and catering equipment procured by the ministry and made available through the district assembly for caterers to access on credit.
“It is not compulsory for caterers to take rice and other food items from the ministry, neither is it compulsory for the ministry to supply. All they have to do is to notify us that they are not interested and that they can look for other alternatives," she said.
The ministry, under the programme, procures food items produced locally, which is made available to the caterers on credit as a means to facilitate their work.
At the South La Estate Primary School, the minister and the coordinator of the School Feeding Programme, Mr Adu Nsiah, observed that the caterer had provided food for the schoolchildren.
The Headteacher of the school, Ms Mary Amasah, said indications were that the caterer was prepared to provide meals for the school term.
Include JHS students
Ms Amasah appealed to the government to expand the School Feeding Programme to cover Junior High School (JHS) students, since some JHSs were needy and required such assistance.
She said the programme was beneficial as it had resulted in increased enrolment in schools.
“It makes most children happy as they are assured of at least one sumptuous meal a day. We are feeling the positive impact of the programme and we hope you will continue,” Ms Amasah added.
The Coordinator of the School Feeding Programme, Mr Adu Nsiah, hinted that “the government intends to extend the programme to cover 30 per cent more of the schools previously covered on the programme.
The selections of schools will be based on poverty mapping, he explained, and there would also be an increment of the fee per child from 80 pesewas to 85 pesewas.
According to Mr Nsiah, the School Feeding Programme, with an enrolment of about 1.6 million children at the last count, currently covered about 5,528 schools, representing 37 per cent of all schools in the country