Food vs gun

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Hardball

Out of the Twitter ban-powered threats of apocalypse, it is refreshing some good news still make it through the din.

Sadiya Farouq, the Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development minister, just announced a re-boosted National Home-Grown School Feeding programme, disclosing “9, 196, 823 pupils, in classes 1 to 3 in public primary schools will receive one nutritious meal daily in all 54, 619 schools nationwide”, as The Nation put it, in its news report of June 9.

Of course, such reports won’t “trend” or “go viral” — to borrow the lingo of Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools.  For once, the elite are not done fighting own battles, zealously pushed as “public interest”.  It’s good to have a voice.  But even these blokes should be concerned about how they use — more like misuse — their voices.

For another, 9, 196, 823 pupils, in 54, 619 public primary schools nationwide, is the demographic bastion of the dirt poor.  In these schools are no children of the filthy rich, policy makers, grandstanding legislators or even the posturing media: an industry which many — if not most — times fails its workers in the most basic human right of salary — receiving fair pay for fair work done — and yet works itself into a lather, campaigning for “human rights” outside its doors!  Brave souls!

By this curious demographics, therefore, the plight or welfare of the children of the dirt poor is, to the most informed and influencial band of the citizenry, an object to be pointed at, either with scorn or with pity.  They are simply not involved!  Which is why such stories seldom make front page news.  Crisis, conflicts, scandals and empty controversies are the preferred grist.

Still, government must go on.  And power, government’s enabler — “power is responsibility”,  Rauf Aregbesola, Interior Minister, always insists —  must be responsibly put into use.

Indeed, governance must be pretty lonely business, with its many cacophony of distractions and controversies.  Yet, that piece of news must warm the minister’s heart: school feeding, on this massive scale, all started under his governorship at Osun, before it snowballed into a federal developmental agenda.

Nevertheless, the good news of free food at school, for children of the most vulnerable, loudly crashes against the peril of the children of the most vulnerable at school, given the menace of bandits and kidnappers targeting schools.

It’s a classic food versus gun clash!  The question is who wins in the long run?

Food as magnet to schooling is a wonderful idea.  The food would be produced by local farmers, whose livelihood — and eventual prosperity — is guaranteed.  In the government buying their produce to feed their children in school, the future of these farmers and families are also secure.

But the bad news is that insecurity, with a single volley of the gun, puts paid to both beauties.  With prowling guns at firms, less farmers brace the danger of farming.  With prowling guns in schools, less and less of those children, whose future the government wants to secure, will progressively skip school, out of legitimate fears for dear lives.

Which is why the Federal Government can’t pull off the schools feeding programme without guaranteeing corresponding security.  But that is a challenge it must add to the mix.

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The schools feeding programme is too core a development initiative to fail — and not even insecurity should be in its way.

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