The ongoing Government’s initiative to provide all final year Junior High School (JHS) students, teachers and staff with free ‘One Hot Meal’ a day, is receiving massive commendation from majority of parents and beneficiary students across Ghana. They insist on the provision of the free hot meal is helping the students including those from extremely poor homes to stay in school throughout and study with massive concentration.
Aside from discouraging most students from running home in search of food during classes hours, parents have also been freed from their usual struggle to provide money for their wards daily.
Some 584,000 students and 146,000 teachers and staff from over 17,440 public and private Junior High Schools across the 16 regions of Ghana are benefiting from the meal. Each of the beneficiary student is given GHC3.50 a day to cover for the meal for 20 days. The all-important initiative of the Government follows an earlier promise by President Nana Akufo-Addo in his 15th update on Ghana’s COVID-19 mitigation measures to support all JHS students especially the vulnerable who go to school on empty stomachs due to their compliance with the safety protocols.
During a monitoring tour of the programme in both Volta and Oti Regions by the National Coordinator of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), Mrs Gertrude Quashigah, most parents, teachers and students expressed their utmost appreciation to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for being so sensitive to the plight of the JHS students amid COVID-19.
The monitoring tour took Mrs. Quashigah and her team to several schools in Ketu North, Ketu South, Ho, South Tongu, Adaklu, Keta, Afadzato, Hohoe, Kpando and Ho West districts among others. Similar positive reports according to Mrs. Quashigah have been received from the other regions through GSFP monitoring team sent across the country to ensure the caterers and cooks adhere to the quality standards and COVID-19 safety measures.
Briefing the media, the GSFP National Coordinator said the free hot meal is one of Government’s social interventions to support the JHS students to prepare and study well for their final exams amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Mrs. Quashigah said, “everywhere we go chiefs and people are hailing the President for building a great future for the Ghanaian children through quality education. This is what makes Nana Akufo-Addo the best President with clear vision of moving Ghana to the next level”.
She admitted that though there were initial reports of some challenges of food poisoning involving students of Holy Spirit JHS in Volta Region, and branding of food packs by some NPP parliamentary candidates, all those issues had been immediately addressed.
She explained that the reported food poisoning affected some 13 out of the 40 students who ate the food on the day. Mrs. Quashigah indicated that the 13 affected students according to reports from the school kept their food all day and sent them home to eat.
The Food [prepared with beans] eventually went bad after keeping it for several hours, which apparently resulted in the unfortunate incident for those 13 students.
The School Feeding National Coordinator emphasized that the first one week of the implementation of the one hot meal initiative has been generally successful. “I have gone round many schools in many districts and I also receive daily reports from other GSFP monitoring teams across the nation, and I can proudly say that this initiative by the President for our JHS students has been massively successful. Yes, every new initiative is bound to face some challenges, but I can say emphatically that the challenges recorded are very few and thankfully we have addressed most of them - if not all”.
Mrs. Quashigah noted that the caterers were doing amazingly well and are ensuring that the foods are of good quality and in right quantity, served very hot, well packaged and kept under extreme hygienic condition.
She said that the GSFP authorities would do whatever is required to support the caterers to reposition themselves and ensure the food is of quality, they dress well with their face masks, sanitize their hands frequently as the programme moves to its second week.
She noted that the monitoring and supervision of the programme had been intensified as the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mrs. Cynthia Mamle Morrison and her Deputy, Mrs. Freda Prempeh are leading the charge.