Member of parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has expressed his disappointment in government’s hesitation in holistically attending to the demands of the school feeding programme by deploying the necessary financial obligations.
According to him, it is a sad phenomenon for government to have misplaced its priorities by opting to finance a restaurant in the national cathedral design. He indicated that the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government has told school feeding caterers their demand for GHC3.50 per meal from the current atrocious ₵1.00 which is in constant arrears cannot be met.
Mr Ablakwa noted that caterers have roundly rejected the “miserable” 20 pesewas increase, setting the stage for a standoff.
“An incredible paradox — a government unable to feed children in public schools but has absolutely no objection paying a colossal US$5.8million to Adjaye just for adding a restaurant to his cathedral design.”Samuel Okudzeto Ablakw
Describing the situation as unbelievable, the North Tongu legislator revealed that a government that cannot afford to feed its children was more than “excited” a few months ago to pay David Adjaye a staggering US$5.8million (GHC33.5million at the time) merely for designing a restaurant and extending the Bible museum of the “National” Cathedral for which he had already received GHC145million.
Meanwhile, caterers under the School Feeding Programme have described the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) government as insensitive for failing to address their concerns.
Caterers lament impact of unpaid arrears
Spokesperson for the caterers in the Ashanti Region, Dorothy Ofori Sarpong, criticized the government for not acting on their demands. She stated that government and as a matter of fact, nobody in the national head office or the presidency can say they are oblivious to the plight and petitions of the caterers.
“They are our husbands, we are their wives, sisters and daughters, and they know us. Nobody has even taken the pain to ask why we have been ranting all this while. They rather insult us that we are disgracing them, but what we are going through, they don’t care, that is why I’m saying they [government] are heartless, people are dying, and they don’t care. We have gone everywhere, they all have information about our case.”Dorothy Ofori Sarpong
Commenting on whether the agitation by the caterers will affect the fortunes of the party in the 2024 general elections, she indicated that once government caters to the demands of caterers, then they can “gather momentum and campaign for them for being a listening government”.
“They should listen to our cries and provide us with what we want. If they refuse, we will all go to sleep. Until they pay us our money, we will not do that again for them to get power and lord over us.”Dorothy Ofori Sarpong
Madam Sarpong, equally underscored the dire consequences faced by some of the caterers under the programme due to debts, resulting in a few even fleeing their homes to escape their creditors.
She revealed that the distressing situation has led to one person tragically losing her life due to incessant pressure from debtors.
The caterers, who have been on strike in demand for an increase in the rate per child under the programme, have vehemently rejected the government’s recent offer to raise the rate from 93 pesewas (GH¢ 0.93) to 1 Ghana cedi and 20 pesewas. They argue that the unilateral decision by the government without their involvement displays flagrant disrespect and a disregard for their value of services.
Earlier, Lariba Zuweira Abudu, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, revealed that Caterers of the Ghana School Feeding Programme will receive payments of their arrears for the third term of the 2022 academic year by next week.