More than 580,000 final-year Junior High School (JHS) students partaking in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) yesterday received their first free meal provided by the government.
In addition to the students, 146,000 staff, all from 17,440 public and private basic schools across the country each received a pack of jollof rice with boiled egg and ‘shito’.
The intervention which was announced by President Akufo-Addo in his 15th COVID-19 address to the nation was to ensure full observance of the COVID-19 safety protocols by both students and staff in schools.
The Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei Opare and the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Cynthia Mamle Morrison visited The Morning Star and the Kanda AMA Basic Schools in Accra to monitor the implementation of the President’s directive.
The monitoring was done in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service, the Ghana Health Service, Ministry of Finance and the Social Welfare Department.
After observing lunch time with the children at The Morning Star School, Madam Frema Osei Opare expressed delight over how the initiative had taken off.
“I have come to see how it is going, and I also want to know if you are okay with the food.
“The idea is that you cannot study on an empty stomach so we are giving you one decent meal so you can focus on your studies and do well in the exams. We are praying with you and President Akufo-Addo is praying with you and we know that you are going to be victorious,” she said.
Mrs Morrison addressing the media after monitoring the process at the Kanda AMA Basic School said the meals are being funded from the Ministry’s feeding programme budget for the year.
She said food vendors were not allowed to sell food in schools as a result of the COVID-19 protocols hence the initiative to serve one hot meal a day for all JHS final year students in the country.
“Today is the pilot and we are here to monitor what is going on and we have seen that everything is going well. I am also coordinating with the regions and so far the feedback I am getting is that everything is going well,” she said.
She, however, said that there are a few exceptions where the number of teaching staff is more than the number given, “but the numbers were given to us by the GES so we will go back to them to rectify it.”
She said “there would be a variety of meals on the menu including, banku, beans, tuo zaafi, yam, waakye among other local foods. This is to allow the caterers to cook meals with ingredients that are readily available in their region.
“If a child is allergic to a certain food they notify us so we give those children exception,” she said. “We also have a daily report the schools submit to us to know the exact food they were served, the quality and quantity, and the time that they were brought in and if they are any problems they put it down.”
Some of the final year student in an interview with the Ghanaian Times expressed gratitude to the government and promised to do their best in the examinations.
BY VIVIAN ARTHUR