In a bid to check the rising rate of out-of-school children in Delta State, a traditional Ruler, Obi Chukwunonso Nwoko, the Obi of Udumuju-Gboko, in Aniocha North Local Government Area, has called for the introduction of free school feeding program across the state.
The traditional ruler made the call during the launch of the pilot project of a school feeding program by Wendoo School Breakfast Empowerment lnitiative, (WSBEI), at Ikeze and Ugboko primary schools, in Udumuju-Gboko.
He said a free school feeding program will help in reducing the number of out-of-school children in the state.
The monarch also spoke of the need to address the falling standard of education in the country.
According to him, the school feeding program introduced by WSBEI has increased population, attendance and punctuality to school as pupils do not want to miss school again owing to the type of meals they are served.
“Their parents have stopped buying biscuits, okpa or any other kind of lunch for them while in school.
“It is a good way of making pupils stay in their classrooms and not move about during the school period,” the monarch added.
He appealed to the state government, ministries, corporate bodies and individuals to engage in free school feeding program.
Founder/President, WSBEI, Maureen Bonds, in her opening remarks, the school feeding program started in February 2023 when she took decisive measures to fight the impact of poverty and its attendant consequences on children.
She said the idea was informed by the need to address the growing number of out-of-school children, tackle malnutrition due to poverty among Nigerian children and its attendant consequences on education.
“These, among other crises confronting education, especially dropout of pupils at primary school level and the need to improve nutrition among school children, were some of the core mandates WSBEI was set up to address.
“The programmes were designed to specifically target sections of vulnerable Nigerians, including youths and children. WSBEI’s main objective is to address the challenges of malnutrition among school pupils,” she said.
The Country Representative, Mr. Obiora Isichei revealed that WSBEI gives one free nutritious meal to 450 children weekly in the schools for optimal benefits.
According to him, the gesture ensures high school attendance as every child of school-age will be attracted to schooling with healthy nutrition.
“Apart from boosting nutrition of pupils, the scheme was aimed at enhancing local economy as the food is produced and purchased from local farmers and vendors to create a long value chain.
“We are not just looking for school breakfast alone, but into health. As we speak, we are feeding an average of 450 children every week with the potential of that number increasing as we expand the feeding process probably in the next months.
“Based on the impact of the programme – attracting children to school, ensuring the children are healthy, the children of the poor and vulnerable attending school – it is necessary that the programme is sustained,” lsichie said.