Tarikpaa (N/R), May 10, GNA - The World Food Programme (WFP) has expanded its basic schools feeding programme in the three Northern Regions to five more years to support 190,000 pupils from Primary One to Six with on-site feeding.
Additionally, 42,000 girls from Primary Four to Junior Secondary School Three would receive take-home rations under the programme. Ms Trudy Bower-Pirinis, Country Director of the WFP, announced this at a Ghana Education Service (GES/WFP) Girls' Education Scholarship Awards ceremony in Tarikpaa in the Savelugu/Nanton District on Tuesday. Ms Bower-Pirinis said during the period, the WFP would procure 60 per cent of its food commodities from Ghanaian producers at a cost of 10 million dollars adding that to address any micronutrient deficiencies, the food would be fortified with iodine, iron and vitamin "A".
The WFP was currently operating in 12 districts in the Northern Region, eight districts in the Upper East Region and five districts in the Upper West Region.
Ms Bower-Pirinis announced that 19 brilliant girls who excelled in this year's Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in Junior Secondary Schools in the three Northern Regions had been awarded scholarships to attend any Senior Secondary School of their choice. The beneficiaries were presented with certificates, textbooks and cash prizes ranging from two to four million cedis each. The total prize money amounted to 100 million cedis.
Vice-President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, his wife, Hajia Ramatu Mahama, and Mr P. Afoko, a philanthropist, gave special scholarships to Miss Fuseina Abukari, Master Issifu Alimatu Sulemana, and Miss Akiskame Sylvia, who obtained aggregates eight, 10 and 15 respectively. Ms Trudy said the WFP would work closely with UNICEF and Technoserve, an NGO, to increase the supply and distribution of iodised salt commercially in Northern Ghana while women's groups would be selected to participate in the salt distribution chain as an income generating activity.
She announced that the year 2010 would mark the end of WFP's programme of food aid to Ghana and to this end, the organisation would support the regional and district authorities to ensure that its on-site feeding programmes were sustained through the substitution of WFP food with local production.
She urged the District Assemblies and NGOs to continue to support women's groups with skills training, income generating and food production activities to enable them to continue to support their children's education and also contribute to the management of community schools and school feeding programmes.
Ms Trudy used the occasion to launch the "Fight Hunger - Walk the World", the world largest advocacy and sponsored walk, which takes place in Tamale on May 21.
Similar events would be organised in Accra and over 200 other locations worldwide with all the proceeds going to support the community based feeding programmes in Ghana.
Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC), said statistics indicated that in 2004, enrolment in WFP assisted schools increased to 95 per cent with an attendance rate of 85 per cent whilst gender parity in these schools stood at 0.84 per cent. She said the study also showed that the number of participating schools in the programme had more than doubled from 235 in 1999 to 538 in 2004, with a corresponding increase in girls' enrolment from 9,071 to 31,112.
She said WFP activities aimed at encouraging girls to aspire to greater educational heights were in line with the government's policy of affirmative action to have about 40 per cent representation of women at all levels of governance.
Hajia Mahama said the government would soon embark on a National School Feeding programme that would draw on the experiences of the WFP to make it a success.
She encouraged women to take active interest in politics and come out in their numbers to contest for seats in the impending district assembly elections.
Mr Mohammed Amin Antar, Deputy Northern Regional Minister, linked the development of the child to its mother's educational background, saying women who were educated understood the importance of education and therefore ensured that their children were well educated. The Deputy Regional Minister commended the WFP for instituting the feeding programme and the scholarship awards noting that the advantage of the scheme was that it was reaching the poor children, rather than subsidizing everyone.
Mr Abubakari Atori Savelugu/Nanton District Chief Executive, said the introduction of the model schools, the implementation of the capitation grant and the NEPAD feeding programmes were some of the interventions to facilitate the Free, Compulsory, Universal Basic Education (FCUBE} programme.
He said the District Assembly on its part, was not relenting in the provision of school infrastructure and sponsoring of teacher-trainees to Teacher Training Colleges to ensure the development of education in the area.
The District Assembly, he said, had set up five feeding centres under the WFP and was taking up the responsibility of transporting the food items from Tema to the feeding centres at a cost of 70 million cedis annually.