Taraba State has fully embraced the National Home-Grown School Feeding, HGSF, programme and spearheads it in the Northeast.
This was disclosed by the State focal person, Hon. Beatrice Kitchener in a chat with journalists recently in Jalingo.
According to her, “Governor Darius Ishaku stepped in and ensured Taraba State was the first in the North East to begin the scheme followed by Gombe and Bauchi States.
She stated that the Federal Government initiative to offer lunch for primary school pupils across the country commenced in the State in July 2017 with 2,000 vendors as was recommended by the national office.
With full funding provided for the takeoff so far, the State now has 5,000 food vendors spread across the 16 Local Government Areas of the State which are paid directly by the Federal Government into their personal bank accounts.
Speaking on the recruitment of these vendors, she disclosed, “It is the same like in any other state. We met with the traditional rulers, various groups, NGO’s, women groups, and I’m sure there are women in the youth groups too, but basically through traditional rulers in the Local Government Areas. So, it was generally an open recruitment. It was free for everyone to apply.
“There was no particular criteria apart from the people be medically fit so that they don’t transfer any disease to the pupils they are cooking for.
“The individuals did not need any academic qualifications so long as they understand the basics of cooking and personal hygiene. In fact, after the shortlisted vendors were brought together, we organized series of training for them and at the same time gave them our manuals to serve as a guide.
“We also embarked on follow up to make sure strict compliance in line with the hygienic conditions of the environment where the meals are prepared just to be sure they abide by what is stated in the manuals we gave them”
Hon. Kitchener however made disclosure of challenges where they had few cases of teachers also demanding that they be included in the feeding programme.
She stated that, “ but of course you know that it is not part of our mandate to do so. Yes, we also had issues with some of our vendors who have not been meeting up as expected. What I mean is that they didn’t cook at all and that is unacceptable to us.
“We have identified them through feedbacks from the education secretaries in the Local Government Areas. This informed the need to come up with a template whereby they sign an attendance register when they supply meals to their designated schools.
“We did this to checkmate erring vendors and after we warned them, we gave them another opportunity but once we discover that they are not abiding by our instructions, we will have no choice but to erase their names from our register and replace them.
She commended President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo for the initiative and support in the prompt release of funds for the sustenance of the scheme.