Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
God often speaks of the poor and needy in the Bible and always admonishes us to give generously to them and speak on their behalf.
Two biblical injunctions, among several others, aptly capture the need to attend to the poor and needy amongst us:” Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbour, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. — Proverbs 3:27-28; whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. — Proverbs 19:17.
In tune with the above biblical injunctions, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu has offered succour for the indigent school- child in Abia who lacks the hope of one meal per day. He has launched a pet project tagged “Feeding of School Pupils”.
This project, which will ensure the feeding of pupils in 170 primary schools in the state three times a week, targets the poorest of the poor and children from indigent homes. The thrust of the project is to encourage these indigent children to remain in school. They are to be fed three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
By this initiative, Abia State has joined the league of states that have adopted the free meal project. The Abia State model is timely and auspicious because free school meal is the in thing and states striving to cut down the rate of out- of school- children and boost the enrolment rate are queuing into it.
Recently, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State , while presenting the year 2016 budget proposal to the Lagos State House of Assembly, said that the government’s “A-Meal-a-Day” programme in the state’s Public Primary schools would commence in 2016.
Ambode, in attempt to drive home the import of feeding school children explained: “This programme promises not only to improve the daily nutrition of our children. “It will also create an economy of its own, with opportunities for job creation, income generation, poverty alleviation, and so on”.
The benefits of this project are multifarious and cannot be relegated to the background. Isa Yunusa in a paper entitled “SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAM IN NIGERIA: A VEHICLE FOR NOURISHMENT OF PUPILS”, opined that “Malnutrition disorders affect more than 42% of school children in Nigeria and are responsible for 49% absenteeism of primary school age children. School Feeding Program (SFPs) is designed to overcome malnutrition disorders through regular school-feeding to improve the health/nutrition status and the education abilities of school children”. It is germane, especially in the face of a 2013 UNESCO report which approximates 10.5 million kids out of school, with Nigeria dominating 12 other countries with which it accounts for 47 percent of the world out-of- school population.