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Government has released adequate funds to settle all caterers who provided hot meal to private and public Junior High School (JHS) 2 & 3 students as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
According to the National Coordinator of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), Mrs. Gertrude Quashigah “the money is expected to hit caterers’ accounts in the next few days”.
Mrs. Quashigah dropped the hint during one of her newly adopted unannounced visits to some schools in Accra to personally assess the performance of caterers contracted to provide nutritious meals to pupils on every school going day.
“Funds have been released by the government for us to clear arrears of the One Hot Meal for JHS 2&3; and I can assure you that everyone would be paid from next week”.
The provision of the hot meal was a stop gap measure introduced by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in 2020 to provide cooked foods and drinking water to over 584,000 students and 146,000 teachers in about 17,440 public and private JHS across the 260 districts nationwide.
But payment to some of the caterers who provided the services could not be effected due to some challenges.
On the other hand, the National Coordinator of GSFP, Mrs. Quashigah has also hinted that the Government is also making significant efforts to pay caterers’ arrears for the 2nd term of the 2021 academic year as soon as possible. Other arrears to caterers including those that are outstanding since 2019 are under serious consideration for payment.
The unannounced visit of schools was initiated by Mrs. Quashigah to among others, ensure that caterers meet the required standards; and to offer her the opportunity to interact with Education Directors, Circuit Supervisors, Headteachers, teachers, pupils and caterers.
She noted that “there are some caterers who see this contract as a service to God and therefore in spite of all the challenges, they are performing marvellously, attestable by all stakeholders. Just like Madam Diana Masopeh who cooks for the Association Community Model Basic School at Labone which we just visited, and I believe you all tasted her food and you can confirm the quality of the food she is serving to the children. So people like her and many others, they have to be recognized and awarded for their efforts.”
THE NEW FACE
Interacting with the School Improvement Support Officer for Airport Rangoon as well as staff of Association Community Model Basic School and La Yahoushua A & B Primary Schools, Mrs. Quashigah touched on the ongoing digitization drive at GSFP, which is currently being piloted in some schools in partnership with the World Food Programme.
“Currently, the digitization of GSFP’s monitoring and evaluation tools is being piloted and we are looking at digitizing the entire operations of school feeding to increase the efficiency of the pro-poor programme.”
Mrs. Quashigah, encouraged the caterers to show themselves approved and suitable for reengagement under the Programme in the next academic year.
She reminded them to also get their Ghana Cards ready as one of the key verification documents for the selection of Caterers.
“We will be operating under a new paradigm shift that would also put smiles on the faces of our pupils. As a caterer the push you can give to these young ones to become useful and responsible future leaders is providing them with nutritious meals. GSFP is a humanitarian work, if you don’t have love for kids don’t venture. Any caterer who misbehave would be replaced,” Mrs. Quashigah who is a renowned international nutritionist admonished.
The National Coordinator strongly pointed out, “If we don’t give the children nutritious meal then we have failed. GSFP feeds perfectly into the Sustainable Development Goals of eradicating poverty and malnutrition, therefore if you are a caterer and you are starving the children or serving them with poor quality food, then you don’t have a place under the Programme.”
The School Improvement Support Officer (formerly Circuit Supervisor) for Airport Rangoon, Madam Mercy Adjatey, recounted the impact of school feeding especially on attendance.
“Some pupils eat and reserve some for their siblings at home who have nothing to eat. Tell Papa Akufo-Addo that we are grateful and God bless him.
“But I will plead with the School Feeding Secretariat that since we value the feeding programme, you should be more cautious about the kind of people you contract to cook because some are giving the programme a bad name.”
The National Coordinator was accompanied on the monitoring by the Greater Accra Regional Coordinator of GSFP, Madam Christiana Nkansah and some staff of GSFP at National Secretariat and Regional Levels.