School feeding Programme in Nigeria; the Concept, Advantages, Disadvantages, Challenges and Prospect

In this post, we discus the School feeding Programme in Nigeria. Here we take a candid look at the concept, advantages, disadvantages, challenges and prospects of this programme.

The idea of school feeding Programme in Nigeria is arguably one of the many quirks adopted by the Nigerian school system from her western counterpart. (I stand to be corrected on this note as this nothing short of a personal perception).

Nevertheless, if you take your mind back to the good old days where the mere act of sharing sweet by a teacher, parent or fellow pupil is considered as a premeditated act geared towards initiating young children into witchcraft, you will understand why I am leaning on this angle of perception.

School feeding Programme in Nigeria; the Concept, Advantages, Disadvantages, Challenges and Prospect

Times have changed though: We have become more exposed, enlightened and less prone to paying too much allegiance to the dark forces of life instead we are more inclined towards the pursuit of material happiness.

So, the concept of school feeding can be seen to have triumphed in two areas:

  • One of them is the fact that it helps remind us that our former religious paranoia was grossly unfounded and totally baseless. This is based on the fact that ever since school feeding became the new cool, there have been hardly any tangible proof that our children are being polluted spiritually from eating the food prepared by their schools.
  • The other area of triumph is based on the fact that it has proffered a solution to many 21st century Nigerian families where both mother and father are career oriented people. This is common especially in thriving cities like Lagos.

With that being established, it is important that we take a closer look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of this system.

Advantages of School feeding Programme in Nigeria

One of the major benefits that the school feeding system has imparted into the life of the average Nigerian family is the fact that it has helped in balancing what would have been a crazy life style for what has turned out to be the standard picture of an average Nigerian family.

Consider this: a family (let us call this family the Emmanuel family) the father is a General Manager in a financial firm while the mother is the head of marketing in a bank. Both parents leave the house as early as 5:30am and the driver has the responsibility of taking the children to school and bringing them back.

The Emmanuel family can afford a maid but recent tides in that front have left that choice beyond consideration so they are faced with a dilemma: how to feed and care for a nine year old girl and a seven year old boy.

Imagine how they will feel when they are told by the head of school that the school provides food for pupils.

That is just one of the ways that the school feeding system has helped the average Nigerian family.

Another advantage of the school feeding system is the fact that it has helped most children enjoy the healthy benefit of a planned dinner. Now this may not necessary apply to some homes but it sure applies to most homes.

The average Nigerian family rarely has time to invest in their food planning and feeding is usually done spontaneously so with the school feeding system, some kids get to enjoy the benefit of a planned meal: a culture that has barely gained popularity in the average Nigerian home.

Disadvantages of School feeding Programme in Nigeria

There are so many other advantages of the school feeding system but let us take a look at some of the disadvantages.

One of these disadvantages is the fact that very few schools have a healthy approach to their feeding system. It is so appalling that some top notch school with big budget school fees end up outsourcing their food management to local cooks rather that employing the service of professional chefs who understand the hygienic implications of cooking in a tidy environment.

Another disadvantage is the fact that the school system is so burdened with responsibility that it finds it almost impossible to placate the endless needs of whining pupils: a benefit they would have had in excess if they were in their different homes.

You see, children are a very demanding lot and have needs that can be very volatile: A child might decide that he or she needs rice today for lunch but the next moment, he or she can suddenly decide that beans and plantain is the best option. What can an overworked cook who has spent his or her whole day preparing rice for probably five hundred pupils do?

These and many more are some of the disadvantages that the school feeding system faces every day.

Challenges of School feeding Programme in Nigeria

More importantly, we need to take a step further and analyze some of the challenges that the school feeding system faces on a regular basis.

Most recurring among the many challenges faced by the school feeding system is: the trust issue!!!

By default, the average Nigerian family is built around a religious belief that is also most of the time spiced up with a rich cultural heritage.

The downside of this is that most of these religions and cultures are deeply rooted in a firm belief in the potency of dark supernatural forces and because of this, most of them find it difficult to trust fellow humans especially if they are of a different religious or cultural affiliation.

As appalling as it might sound, it is the reality of things going on even in the wake of what we might term a takeover by modern civilization of our indigenous beliefs and culture.

Another challenge that the school feeding system faces on a regular basis is the inability of the school management body to attach the needed priority it requires to run effectively and efficiently.

Like I stated earlier in this article, it is not rare to see the responsibility of managing the school feeding system being delegated to local food vendors whose experience in the culinary service can only be traced to their home kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we do not have talented African women whose cooking skills can be tagged legendary; I am only saying that it is not ideal to put the lives of hundreds and sometimes thousands of young children in the hands of someone whose idea of hygiene ends with a napkin and diluted liquid soap.

Prospects of School feeding Programme in Nigeria

But beyond the challenges, the school feeding system really has a lot going for it and that cannot be overlooked.

One of those things is the fact that it has successfully provided a solution to most career driven Nigerian parents whose primary aim seems to be building a financial empire so that their children do not get to go through the same problem they went through.

For such kind of parents, this system is almost God sent: it not only solves the problem of stress elimination, it gives them a reason not to entrust their kids into the hands of someone whose provenance is unknown.

Another prospect that paints the light at the end of the tunnel perfectly, is the fact that the school feeding system helps in creating a home away from home kind of scenario for the kids and if taken to the next level and by next level, I mean etiquette, culinary and other relevant feeding based lessons, this could go a long way in building up a generation of well balanced kids in every ramification.

Conclusion 

Despite all these surmounting odds and appealing prospects, one thing remains certain and it is the fact that the school feeding system has come to say.

With that in mind, I will like to offer a candid advice to the management of the countless schools in Nigeria: ensure that you create a special department responsible for making sure that the health and nutritional standard of the meals being served in schools are not compromised because one thing is certain: we are a product of what we eat.

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Emanuel Chika is a public Affairs Analyst and a Poet

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