More than 65 percent of pupils in Universal Basic Education (UBE) primary school, Layin Biliya, Rigasa (a community school in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State), have decided to quit school after the state government suspended the free School-feeding program it introduced in 2016.
In this month of February, 2017, school attendance in the Layin Biliya Primary School has reduced to about 5,000 from 19,954 pupils, who enrolled in 2016, when the program began.
It would be recalled that the Kaduna state Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, during the flag-off ceremony of the program on 17th January, 2016, said, the feeding intervention was necessary to boost nutrition, health of the children, and also encourage school attendance; noting that, the free feeding program will expand access to education.
This development attracted lots of pupils and students’ enrolment; but the case is not the same now, as the suspension of the program has led to a large drop in school attendance; one of such schools is UBE Primary School Layin Biliya.
Speaking with Conscience Triumph, the School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) chairman, Idris M. Sheriff, said, before the commencement of the program, the school had a little above 2,000 pupils, and it later rose to almost 20,000 when the program began, but that currently, it is declining because of government’s suspension of the program.
He said, “Currently, the pupils are not more than five thousand in both morning and afternoon sessions. We believe it was the school feeding that attracted them; if not, why then did they stop coming because school feeding has stopped?” he questioned.
He however noted that after the school pleaded for expansion, in order to accommodate the increasing number of pupils, government heard and bought a house in the neighborhood, mounted a temporal tent within the school compound, but they have not started using them because the number of pupils have drastically reduced.
While commending the government for initiating the program, Sheriff tasked El-Rufai to resume the school feeding program so as to make the children return to school and be educated for the advancement of Nigeria.
“Where were these thousands of children that came up all of a sudden to enroll into school because of free feeding? I’m just imagining where these children will be in the next 10 to 15 years if they are not educated. They will become a big problem to our country and even be worse than Boko Haram.
“Education is important, and any program that would attract students’ enrollment should be encouraged. These children are vulnerable to manipulations, but when they are educated they become wise and difficult to be manipulated.
“Because of this, El-Rufai should bring back this program so that the lives of these children and the future of our country could be secure,” he emphasized, and observed that the school is lacking facilities that will ensure effective learning.
“We have made little efforts and cemented the floor of some classrooms instead of sitting on the dust; some of the pupils stand, while some sit on window walls during classes, and that hinders effective learning.”
Corroborating what the SBMC chairman said, a volunteer assigned to the school by the Parents/Teachers’ Association, Mohammed Yunus, decried the state of facilities in the school. He said some of their challenges include, among others, lack of toilets, chairs, classrooms, windows, doors, and security, noting that six irons used in mounting the tents have been stolen because the school lacks a watchman.
The state government began the school feeding program in January, 2016, at the cost of N1.1 billion monthly.
The Education Commissioner in the state, Andrew Nok, said government has spent over eight billion naira within the first eight months of the program in 2016, explaining that, government is putting all the needed logistics to resume the feeding program.
According to him, “Under the arrangement, the federal government will feed students from Primary One to Three, while the state government will feed students from Primary Four to Six.
It was also agreed that the Federal Government would refund to the state 60 percent of the amount spent on feeding Primary One to Three pupils. However, the program was suspended after eight months, following the failure of the Federal Government to reimburse the state as previously agreed.