Deputy Education Minister in charge of tertiary, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa says President John Mahama has done a tremendous job with the school feeding programme.
According to him, the Mahama-led administration has done better with the scheme than the New Patriotic Party (NPP) who introduced it.
Speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, the North Tongu MP said the improvement and progress the scheme has witnessed is commendable.
“School feeding programme is one of the success stories of the Mahama-led administration,” he said.
Mr Ablakwa said although the NDC inherited a scheme that fed 440,000 basic school children, they have expanded the programme to cover about 1.6 million children.
For him, this achievement cannot be described as a “tottling or a challenged programme” like their opponents have said. It is “clearly a success story,” he stressed.
He added that the NPP had support from the Dutch government but it was discontinued after an audit report exposed the school feeding secretariat.
“There was no accountability and the food cooked for the children was rotten. On the contrary, our children are being well catered for now,” he claimed.
Mr Ablakwa admitted that government has had challenges as regards payment of caterers and suppliers but was quick to add that every government has delayed in releasing funds to institutions and individuals.
“It is more or less a tradition…but let us admit that the school feeding programme has been expanded. Caterers and suppliers have been paid.”
He maintained that the Mahama-led administration is committed to ensuring that lives are improved and this is demonstrated in government’s continues funding of the programme although the donor support has ended.
“The challenges do not take away the success stories…and you can trust us because we have a better track record in managing the programme,” he said.
But the New Patriotic Party’s MP for Ablekuma West is unsure about the successes being touted by Mr Ablakwa.
She said there has been consistent complains from school children about the quality of the food they are being fed with.
“Headmasters have to hide from their creditors, even some of the caterers have abandoned the programme because they cannot keep up with pre-financing the project,” Ursula said.
On the Minister’s claim of expanding the project, the MP said this is nothing to be proud of because every project starts small and scales up.
She said the NPP knew the multiplier effects the scheme would have in retaining children in school, it was for that reason that the Kufuor administration began it with funding from the Dutch government.
“So the fact that you came into government and recognized the worth in promoting this programme doesn’t mean that you have done anything well.
“And so instead of knocking the Kufuor administration for introducing it, you should applaud them for its far sightedness and its vision in introducing this social intervention,” she insisted.
“The school feeding programme is in crisis, the children are being fed with unwholesome food. There have been times when they have been given biscuits because they couldn’t eat the food that was provided for them,” she stressed.
The Ablakuma West MP said the NPP if voted into power will restructure the programme and employ trained caterers who will provide healthy meals in hygienic conditions for the school children.
”We want to refocus it to its original message of providing market for local producers so that the caterers will be required to use local agricultural produce wherever they are so that it will also stimulate the growth of agriculture in our communities and that is the way to go,” she stressed.
Ursula said the NDC should not be flattered by their so called achievements because for a party which prides itself as being social democrats, they have not been able to add one single social intervention policy to what the NPP has already done.
The NPP has often cited the School Feeding Porgramme, the Capita Grant (under which basic school pupils are subsidised with three cedis each); the Metro Mass Transit system, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), under which the poorest of the poor are given financial support, free maternal care, National Health Insurance, amongst others as great social intervention policies the Kufuor government introduced.
Mr. Ablakwa dismissed Ursula’s comments that the NDC government in eight years has failed to introduce one social intervention policy despite the mantra that it is a social democratic party.
He listed the distribution of free exercise books, free uniforms, free sandals and laptops for teachers as the NDC’s social intervention policies.