INTERVIEW: HOME GROWN SCHOOL FEEDING; Why We Embark On Strict Monitoring- Barr. Alonge

Dupson Collins -3rd July 2021

Barrister Felix kolawole Alonge is the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Ondo State Government on Social Investment Programmes. He speaks with the PATH on the 100 days in office of Governor Akeredolu, Social Intervention Programmes of the government among other issues.

You fall among the lucky appointees who were re-appointed by Governor Akeredolu, how elated are you with the appointment?

I have to give glory to God for using Mr Governor for counting me worthy for re-appointment as SSA on Social Investment Programmes. What I enjoyed is God’s grace and mercy. We thanked God that our office was able to coordinate the SDG and Social Investment Programmes to the admiration of the governor under the leadership of Mrs Olubunmi Ademosu. Our happiness is that all our programmes is making positive impact in the lives of the poors and downtrodden (elderly and physically challenged). We have no option than to continue to champion the course of ameliorating the living conditions of the people through our various interventionist programmes. We are targeting the population within the poverty class, so that they can move from poverty class to life of prosperity and abundance. There is no way any government can provide employment for the teeming unemployed graduates on the streets, that is why SIP is so germane to Mr Governor with sole aim of reducing poverty in the state.

Are you saying Ondo State government key into various interventionist programmes of the Federal Government?

Yes, we did. Ondo State Government keyed into all the intervention initiatives of the Federal Government such as N-POWER, Home Grown School Feeding Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer, Special Public Works among others. Within the state, ONDEA makes provision for Entrepreneur Circle Fund which is available to people with entrepreneur skills where they can assess loans to boost their trades. The State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) came up with digital technology as a way of promoting digital economy for university graduates where they will be trained for 9 months with N30,000 stipend. These are some of the many programmes of the state government through SIP designed to engage the youths and take then off streets.

Poor implementation has been the major challenges facing policy formulation in Nigeria; what is your office doing differently to ensure the school feeding programmes of the Federal Government is fully implemented?

As far as we are concern in SIP as directed by the Special Adviser to the Governor, this time around, we need to intensify more effort in the monitoring our programmes across the state, particularly the Home Grown School Feeding of our pupils from primary 13. The programme was suspended for a while due to change of guard. As we all know, Office of the Vice President was in charge of the programme before it was handed over to a new ministry, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Distater Management and Social Investment. The Minister in charge need to look at the records and books of engagement, design it own structure for effective service delivery. We thanked God that School Feeding Programme is back and better with thorough monitoring. To us in Ondo State, we don’t want to be good policy formulator but better implementator, most especially on the School Feeding Programme. A lot of people are involved in the programme – The Aggregator who supply protein contents in the preparation of the food; we are so passionate about protein contents because the pupils cognitive capacity need to improve for better learning. We have various food menu for the pupils which are balanced meal. Across the 18 Local Governments of the state, we have about 112,000 pupils taking the meal in the afternoon and about 1,500 people engaged in the preparation of the menu. Since the beginning of the programme, number of pupils in our public schools have increased; the pupils are very sure of afternoon meal and their leaning ability have improved when compared to what it used to be in the past. To complement the school feeding programmes, Mr Governor ensured all the schools in the state are equipped with modern facility, perimeter fencing and conducive learning environment culminated into excellent and brilliant performance of the pupils. With adequate monitoring exercise we have embarked upon, the programme is now more effective.

The programme is Home Grown School Feeding Programmes; did programme in any way contribute to the local economy of the state?

Aside the pupils who are the prime target of the programmes, a lot of people are beneficiaries of the programme. The programme has boost local economy as food items are source locally. The aggregators are engaged in the provision of food items. The programme is calked Home Grown School Feeding, meaning all the materials should be source locally. Of recent, we visited Ilaje Community where we have fruitful discussions with the local Fisher Men and Women of the community on the need to supply us with fish. We shifted our attention to the local Fish Farmer because we want hygienic sea food for our pupils. The health of the pupils are very paramount to us, that is why we always ensure they get the best. From our visit to the riverine community, the Special Adviser was convinced that we can collaborate with them to give quality fish and have the capacity to meet our demands.

You talked about strict monitoring, what is your office intend to achieve with this new strategy?

Any programme that want to excel needs proper monitoring and we can’t afford to work in line with the set goals of the programme. What we did was to divide ourselves into the three Senatorial Districts of the state as a Monitoring Team and we have been moving from one school to another. We have what is known as Integrated Monitoring Platform now; from Federal to State to Local Government. The Minister and her team will visit the states to ensure proper implementation of the programme. Likewise the states too have Focal Persons who have number of times they must go round for monitoring. Aside these people, we have supportive government appointees like myself, technocrat, Independent Monitors who visit school to see things for themselves. The DSS and Well to do in the community play major roles in monitoring the activities of the cooks and suppliers of food items.The era of it is government money has gone, we are determined to make judicious use of every kobo budgeted for the programme. It is not business as usual. Some of the cooks caught trying to defraud the system were arrested and handed over to DSS for future interrogation. The aggregators that supply eggs, we ensure the eggs measure up to the size prescribed and nothing less.

Governor Akeredolu just celebrated 100 Days in office; what is your assessment and projects that emanated from your office?

Mr Governor is a game changer, a man of high initiatives and visionary leader. This is a man that actually prepared himself for leadership and governance of the state for eight years. Arakunrin is not a accidental governor but a man of great vision for our dear Sunshine State. I congratulated the people of Ondo State for reelecting him again for another four years because given another mandate of four years will no doubt bring more dividend of good governance to Ondo State. Within the last 100 days in office, Mr Governor has step up despite the dwindling resources and poor allocation from the federation account, he was able to commission and flag off many projects in his 100 days in office. Within the limited resources, Arakunrin ensures people of the state get values for their money in terms of projects, programmes and policies formulation centre around the people. Every sector felt government presence in the last 100 days – roads were commissioned, first Government House Mosque Commissioned, Amotekun Officers were recruited with state of art equipment provided, over 500 Health Workers employed, 1200 teachers provided with jobs among other laudable feats within this shortest period. He focused attention of his administration on industrialisation with Linyi Industrial Hub in Ore, changing the orientation that Ondo State is a, civil servant state as youth were encouraged to embrace entrepreneur; today many of our youths are employers of labour.

(Cut in….) What about SIP ?

In SIP, through the SDG, as part of the activities marking 100 Days in office of Mr Governor, Oba Israel Adeusi General Hospital will be commissioned in Ifon with state of art medical equipment; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Skill Acquisition Centre in Ile Oluji with different sections like Barbing, Mechanical, Fashion Design and Dress, Photography, Catering, Welding and Fabrication sections among other are all the centre. The centre will provide conducive platforms for the youth to learn any trade of his or her choice to be managed by Ministry of Youths and Sports in collaboration with the Board of Technical and Adult Education. Also, we have distributed books and eating plates to pupils who have not gotten the customize government eating plates. Far from the 100 days, we have lot of programmes line up for the betterment of the less privileged and downtrodden in the state.

What is your message to the people of Ondo State who are looking up to your office and Governor Akeredolu for empowerment?

Mr Governor is not beclouded by political colouration. What matter to him is the general well-being of the teeming masses. In most cases, APC members tend to complain about the style of Arakunrin who put the people first before party members. Past governments in the state priorise the welfare of their party members at expense of the citizens but Akeredolu case is different. He believes in the collective interest of his people. Poverty does not know party or religion. Mr Governor believe Ondo State is a secular state and interest of everybody must be protected ,that is Mr Governor built the first mosque inside Government House to give the Muslims faithful a sense of belonging in the state. Governor Akeredolu and his Deputy are both Christian, yet, he ensures the interest of Muslims in and outside his government are well represented. Akeredolu administration is fair to all and his being passionate about God is working for him. In spite of the financial shortcomings in the state, people of the state can be assured of dividends of good governance. I am appealing to our people to always key into any of our Social Investment Programmes. Ondo State should continue to pray for the People’s Governor and cooperate with him. The overwhelming projects commissioned and flag off within his 100 days in office is just a tip of the iceberg.

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