Race to End Child Hunger 

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Eko Electricity Distribution Company has teamed up with a non-profit to eliminate hunger among school children in West Africa, Nume Ekeghe writes

One recent morning, staff of Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) trooped into Anglican Girls Seminary Primary School located on Broad Street, Lagos Island. Led by its Managing Director, Adeoye Fadeyibi, the EKEDC team was joined by staff of Mary Dinah Foundation, head teachers of the Primary School, and Lagos State Education Board officials. The goal of the convergence was to flag-off a programme, ‘Food for Thought’, designed to feed the school pupils. 

“We want to empower these kids more and make their lives a bit less stressful by providing them a meal while at school,” Fadeyibi said. “And the idea is for all the students in the school – about 110 of them – to get a balanced meal everyday.

“The idea is to adopt a school and then adopt another one. We want to make it sustainable, a year at a time. We want to do more.

“This is something that is bigger than the fund committed to it. We are looking to other people to copy this enviable thing. People do this on a personal level daily without all the publicity. So, the point is we are not doing something new; we are doing something we should be doing more of.”

“We spent a lot of time verifying this organisation and what they do. And the transparency for us is something that attracted us to this. The intent also was very clear and we were happy to partner”, he added.

Apart from feeding, the EKEDC partnership will also be giving the parents of the student a free medical checkup during the parent/teachers meeting, to help them know their health status and improve on it. “We don’t want these future leaders to lose any parent as they journey through education” Fadeyibi said.

Other activities lined up by organisers of the programme include: grooming of the school children, periodic etiquette talks, sports day events, charity football match to encourage participation in and growth of female football and lots more.

The first phase of the programme kicked off on July 17 and will run for a year.

Speaking to THISDAY, Chief Charity Officer at ‘Food for Thought’, Miss. Mary Dinah, was grateful to EKEDC for putting “their name, weight, money and time behind such an initiative”.

“We started the company and initiative two years,” she said. “About two weeks ago, we took on full-time the Anglican Girls Seminary School. We’ve been feeding schools in the past, but this is the first time we are taking on one school on a daily basis for the foreseeable future. Now we have committed completely to feeding them everyday forever.

“I was able to meet with the Head of the Education Council for Lagos Island. There were a lot of schools we considered. We liked this one because it’s an all-girls school, so in terms of women empowerment, girl empowerment, we thought it was important. The size of the school is about a hundred or so students. So we also thought it was a good size; the location is fantastic – it’s right here on Broad Street.

“I think it represents everything that we want to see in the future of children in Nigeria. A big location like this should not have children that are not having school lunches. So we thought we’d take a prime school in a prime location that needs the support and use it as our flagship.”

She said the long term plan is to expand the program to more schools since feeding children is a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed, urgently.

“We intend to take on 10 other schools, still within the Lagos Island area,” she said. “There are at least 100 or 200 schools within a two-mile radius from here – many of them need help, many of them are underfed. In terms of school feeding, it relates to malnutrition, empowerment, it relates to building their confidence, their wellbeing, their nutrition, their health.

“It goes as far as protecting children from terrorism. Many times when children are not in school, they are on the road, playing and get recruited by terrorists, by gang members. So when you feed a child in school, it increases the chances of their parents sending them to school, increases attendance, reduces absenteeism, increases their concentration, their performance in school; it protects the child. It’s very foundational.

“Even before we start to talk about building roads, bridges, signing fancy contracts, we have to make sure children are fed. Also at the United Nations, they have what they call Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and zero hunger is the very first one. So for us our mission is to ensure that we eradicate hunger in children. And we are starting in this form. We intend to expand across Nigeria, across West Africa.

“This government started the one meal a day initiative. So it’s not a new initiative. But I believe even the government needs as many people to support them as possible. They can do it alone. And so we are here to help”.

Dinah, who is a United Nations Fellow, stressed that the initiative was designed to be properly run, with the UN as accountability partner.

“We’ve also partnered with the United Nations,” she said. “They will be our observation and monitoring partners. They are free to come to the school anytime anonymously to check that the children are being fed on a day-to-day basis. So we have the UN and they are fantastic for that kind of work, in terms of observation and monitoring. They are the best agency in the world to do that.

“I am a UN fellow. I spend one week every month in Geneva with the UN, so my background is always fairness, diplomacy and always wanting to help people. I just graduated from Oxford University. I studied Global Business. I got a distinction. So it’s also about the credibility of the person that owns the foundation. Even in terms of the school, for every program that we do, we write to the Head of the School Council for Lagos Island and they are there. We are also going to be speaking with the Governor also to support; so everybody is involved – all the head teachers come here from time to time to observe what we are doing, to monitor, and I have trust in them that they will be fair.

“We also have our own food vendors to support the Lagos State food vendors, and to make sure that the women that will be making the food are employed and that they have a proper contract. We have different vendors that we use, so there is no one that has a huge contract; there is a lot of transparency.”