Caterers of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) say they want an urgent increment in the feeding grant, insisting that the amount being allocated by the Government to prepare daily nutritious meals for pupils is woefully insignificant.
According to them, the GHC1.00 is not enough to purchase food items on the market to prepare quality meals and serve in the right quantity for the children, most of whom come to school on empty stomach.
They disclosed that an amount of GHC0.03 is even deducted from the source as tax component from each of the GHC1.00 paid to them [caterers]. This implies that the caterers do not receive exactly the GHC1.00, but GHC0.97 per child per day.
Some of the caterers in the Bono East Region complained bitterly to some officials of the Ghana School Feeding Programme and the World Food Programme who had come to the region for a weeklong joint monitoring to assess the performance of the caterers and the impact of the school feeding programme.
The distraught caterers even though appreciated the Government for the introduction of the school feeding programme and the great impact it is making in the lives of millions of Ghanaian children in the deprived schools, they disclosed how it is sometimes inconveniencing most of them.
“We have tried so much to be quiet over the years hoping that something will be done to increase the feeding grant to at least GHC2.00 or GhC2.50 so that we can meet the cost of food items on the market but to no avail. We are crying and crying but nobody seems to hear us out. Prices of items are being increased almost every day, and so the President must know that we cannot go to the market with the same GHc1.00”.
The caterers asserted that a bag of beans which was sold between GhC250.00 and GhC300.00 last year, now sells between GhC800.00 and GhC950.00. A bowl of gari has also moved from GhC6.00 to GhC25.00, a maxi bag of local rice moved from GhC200.00 to GhC450.00 and prices of cooking oil, meat, fish and vegetables have also gone up astronomically especially in the last 6 months.
They indicated that, even though it is a policy direction for all the caterers to patronize locally produced foodstuffs from the local farmers, almost all the caterers prefer the imported foods because they are far cheaper.
The caterers said that some of them are still managing to cook for the school children because the imported food suppliers are always willing to supply food and other items like tin tomatoes, cooking oil and canned fish to them on credit, unlike the local farmers.
They also raised serious concern about the long delay in the payment of their arrears by the government, which they indicated, put them under unnecessary pressure.
“We are supposed to pre-finance the cooking for just one term and receive payment the following term. But for a long time now, the government always fails to pay us on time; and most at times we do not receive our payment in full. Sometimes instead of 66 cooking days’ arrears, the government can decide to pay us 20, 25 or 30 days and we will have to struggle for a long time before we will receive the remaining payments. And because we have to pay our cooks and suppliers at all cost, we always have to go and borrow from different sources, which put us in an uncomfortable situation”.
In reaction to the concerns raised by the caterers, the GSFP National Coordinator Mrs. Gertrude Quashigah appealed to the caterers to calm down and exercise restraint, noting that everything is being done towards the upward adjustment of the feeding grant.
She said management of GSFP has been engaging the government for a while now on the issue. According to her, the GSFP has submitted a compelling proposal to the government through the supervisory ministry for an upward adjustment of the feeding grant.
Mrs. Quashigah further revealed that between GHC2.00 and GHC3.00 has been proposed taken into account the prevailing economic trend in the country. She expressed optimism that government would respond positively to the proposal.
She recalled that in 2018 government accepted GSFP’s proposal and increased the feeding grant from GHp.80 to GHC1.00. She, therefore, assured the caterers and Ghanaians in general that government is genuinely committed to the sustainability of the programme.
Our schools are collapsing as pupils keep joining Sch. Feeding beneficiary schools – headmasters
Some basic schools headmasters in the Pru East District in the Bono East Region have passionately appealed to the Government to consider adding them to the Ghana School Feeding beneficiary schools.
According to the headmasters, pupils keep leaving their schools to join others that are benefiting from the Ghana School Feeding Programme just to have free meals.
The under-pressure headmasters besieged the vehicles of some officials of the Ghana School Feeding Programme and the World Food Programme (WFP) who had visited the district for joint monitoring and vehemently poured out their frustrations.
They demanded that their schools be included in the feeding programme before they are collapsed. The headmasters including; Mr. Simpoe Yaw of Yeji R/C Primary ‘B’, Mr. Ismael N. Khalid of Daru Saeed Islamic Primary and Mr. Frederick Dapaah of Yamba D/A Primary schools, said that most of their pupils were from extremely poor homes and as a result had to come to school on empty stomachs.
“Most parents don’t give their wards any money for feeding and they don’t also cook for the children before they come to school. So therefore, when those hungry children see that in the other nearby schools they are enjoying free school feeding meals they quickly decide to join those schools”.
According to them, the situation has affected most of the schools that are non-beneficiaries of the school feeding programme. The headmasters claimed that they have made several complaints and even invited the District Chief Executive for the area to their schools to assess the situation but they only receive assurances.
The District Chief Executive (DCE) for Pru East, Mr. Joshua Kwaku Abonkrah who later joined the GSFP/WFP joint monitoring team confirmed the claims by the headmasters.
According to him, he personally made efforts and wrote to the national secretariat of the Ghana School Feeding Programme for more schools but could only get four additional schools to be captured under the programme.
He said that the entire district currently has only 11 schools that are benefiting from the school feeding programme.
Mr. Abonkrah therefore added his voice to the calls by the frustrated headmasters and called the management of the Ghana School Feeding Programme to increase the number of beneficiary schools in the district in order to save most of the non-beneficiary schools from collapsing.
The DCE revealed that the school feeding programme is serving as a great motivation to the majority of school children in the area most of whom are from extremely poor homes.
He said that, previously, the district being a prominent fishing area had a large number of school going age children who preferred to trade or labour on the river (Volta Lake) to going to school.
“But upon assumption of office, I have managed to push majority of the children into school through advocacy and community sensitizations. So it will be a great disincentive to some of us if all those children should go back to fishing because both their parents and the government cannot feed them to continue to stay in school”.
Mr. Abonkrah was optimistic that the Government would consider increasing the number of beneficiary schools in the district anytime there is an opportunity for expansion.
He appealed to the headmasters and the teachers in the district to keep their spirit high as he continues to lobby the authorities concerned.
The DCE also cautioned all parents to send their children of school-going age to school rather than using them as labourers on the farms and for fishing.