PAACA MONITORS IMPLEMENTATION OF THE MODIFIED NATIONAL HOME-GROWN SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAM IN FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY.
The advent of COVID 19, a global pandemic, led to the closure of all schools in Nigeria, as with many parts of the world. All offline school activities were ordered to be shut down by the federal government and online learning promoted, in situations were learning must continue. The consequence of this directive is that all public-school children are expected to be at home. According to logic, this situation is expected to affect the school feeding programme, halting the entire process until the commencement of school.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to develop a strategy to sustain the school feeding programme during the lock-down without compromising the COVID 19 protocol. The programme was launched on May 19, 2020 and many Nigerians could not comprehend the logic for continuing the school feeding programme when schools closed.
These doubts were largely expressed in opinion write-ups on different media platforms and as such, Peering Advocacy and Advancement centre in Africa (PAACA) with support from Action Aid Nigeria commenced the initiative, to track implementation of the program and weigh the perception of the people in determining the efficiency of the program across the six area councils of the federal capital territory. This was achieved with the help of their community anti-corruption network, after an organized training on how to carry out a survey using questionnaire and one-on-one interview guide to elicit responses from respondents.
Having analyzed the evidence based findings from the community anti-corruption network resident in the six area councils of the FCT; PAACA convened a stakeholder meeting to share findings and recommendations from the research as well as harness feedback/inputs from participants. In attendance were Action aid Nigeria, Ministry of humanitarian Affairs, relevant Civil Society Organizations and the media.
While giving the overview of the research, some of the findings from the field where enumerated to include, shortage of items, poor information dissemination- lack of awareness, inconsistency with laid down procedures for authentication and verification, uneven distribution of vouchers to the exclusion of some communities, opaqueness of the process, among others.
Certain recommendations were made in the research, which included greater awareness, transparency and accountability of the process, better inclusion, need for a centralized and updated beneficiary lists, availability of law enforcement officers in each centre to prevent activity of thugs, distribution of voucher without discrimination and active monitoring of the process.
The ministry of humanitarian affairs, represented by Aisha Hamid, applauded PAACA for providing constructive feedback on the exercise and pledged to further study the findings and consider the recommendations made.
Other participants made certain observations and inputs, some of which were; the need for a follow-up research on the relevance and impact of the program during school lock-down as a result of covid_19; added community sensitization on the NHGSFP; need to intensify the use of Freedom Of Information to get relevant information that will aid accountability; more work to examine the level of compliance of state governments on the counterpart funding (from Primary 4-6) of the program at state levels; need for a similar research in other states of implementation to provide wider coverage, evidence of program implementation and important data that will support meaningful advocacy.
One of the gaps identified in the research was the non-inclusion of challenges encountered outside covid_19 challenges and risks or limitation of the research work. Participants applauded PAACA for providing the research as a baseline for subsequent intervention in the area.
PAACA resolved to consider all inputs, update the reports and invite all relevant stakeholders to the launch of the published report in a future date. Consequently, Action Aid pledged its commitment to support the publication of the work, and replication of the research in its implementing states within the country.