By Albert Futukpor, GNA
Kulkpeni (N/R), Oct. 30, GNA - Food aid and cash grants presented to school girls in the Northern Savannah have led to high levels of attendance and retention of girls in school.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), "97 per cent of girls enrolled onto the programme achieved 85 per cent attendance rates, whiles retention rates in most schools have improved from 40 per cent to 90 per cent".
The WFP in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service has been implementing the food aid incentive for girls' education programme in the Northern Savannah to address gender parity gaps at junior high schools (JHS).
The programme began in the 1998/99 academic year and it involves providing food aid to girls in the food insecure regions as a catalyst to improve enrolment, attendance, and retention, and reduce drop-out rates.
It started with an enrolment figure of 9,000 in the 1998/99 academic year, quadrupled in the mid 2000s and currently stands at 17,000 girls.
In the three regions of the north, adolescent girls in JHS 1 - 3, who attend school for 80 per cent of the month, receive commodity vouchers to redeem four kilogrammes of beans, two litres of vegetable oil, and a kilogramme of iodized salt, whiles those who attend school for three months, receive 12 kilogrammes of beans, six litres of vegetable oil and three kilogrammes of iodized salt.
Adolescent girls in participating schools in the Nkwanta South Municipality and Nkwanta North District receive approximately GH¢47.00 cash for attending school as per the criteria, for one month or GH¢141.00 for three months.
The presentation of the commodity vouchers and cash grants to the girls in the participating schools has been held.
Madam Rukia Yacoub, Representative and Country Director of WFP, who presented the commodity vouchers to girls of Kulkpeni E/P JHS in the Yendi Municipality of the Northern Region to redeem their food aid, said the programme had helped in the efforts to ensure gender parity at the JHS level in the participating areas.
Madam Yacoub encouraged parents to prioritize the education of their children to empower them to become responsible citizens.
The WFP will phase out this food aid and cash grants incentive programme for girls by December, this year.
Madam Yacoub said the WFP would roll out a new girls' education programme as part of its Country Strategic Plan (2019 - 2023) to focus primarily on nutrition for adolescent girls.
She said "during this period, adolescent girls’ school attendance will be monitored to assess whether the free senior high school programme has succeeded in becoming a pull factor for them".
Alhaji Abubakar Hammed Yussuf, Municipal Chief Executive for Yendi expressed government's appreciation to WFP for implementing the programme, which had helped improve enrolment, attendance and retention of adolescent girls in school.
Alhaji Yussuf assured WFP that government would continue to partner it to implement development programmes in the country.
Mr Mawutor Ablo, Director, Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, said the WFP's initiative was in line with the School Feeding Programme to improve the nutritional status of pupils to ensure improved education outcomes.