Spokesperson for the caterers in the Ashanti Region under the School Feeding Programme, Dorothy Ofori Sarpong, has revealed that the strike undertaken by the caterers still remain in effect.
According to her, She indicated that the caterers, among other things, expressed dissatisfaction with the Minister’s response to their concerns.
“We are not going to cook, we are still on strike, though the Minister has spoken. What she came to say wasn’t to our satisfaction. The arrears that she claimed has been cleared with the exception of the 2022 third term are not so. There are arrears as far back as 2019, 2020, and 2021… So, if she is saying all arrears have been paid, it is not so.”Dorothy Ofori Sarpong
Furthermore, Madam Sarpong rejected the proposed GHC1.20 increment by the ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection. She stated that coupled with other factors, the money remains insufficient for the caterers to cook with and unacceptable.
“With the amount of GH¢1.20 proposal, we are not going to agree. We cannot use this to cook any better food for the children, and so, we pray that she goes back and come and tell us something better.”Dorothy Ofori Sarpong
The leadership of the caterers under the government’s school feeding programme in the Ashanti Region iterated its apprehension over the Gender Minister’s approach to addressing their concerns. Owing to this, the caterers requested the gender Minister to visit various districts to appreciate the challenges of members captured under the programme.
Government assures payment of outstanding arrears
Speaking at the Meet the Press series, the Minister for Gender, Children, and Social Protection, Lariba Zuweira Abudu, assured the striking caterers that plans are in place to pay outstanding arrears for the third term of the 2022 academic year. She stated that the files of 11,052 caterers had been finalized for payment.
Additionally, she indicated that the government had already settled the outstanding debts for the first and second terms of the 2022 academic year.
Although Hajia Abudu could not indicate the exact amount of the payments to be made this week, she noted that 76 caterers were unlikely to receive their money due to some pending challenges with their ezwich cards.
Furthermore, the gender minister revealed that there were about 34,350 caterers under the programme who cooked for about 3,801,491 beneficiaries in 10,832 public basic schools across the country.
“The feeding cost per meal per day per child was increased from 80 pesewas (80Gp) in 2018 to GH¢1, and in 2023, the cost per meal per child per day has been proposed as GH¢1.20.”Lariba Zuweira Abudu
Lariba Zuweira Abudu’s statements followed weeks of agitations by the caterers, some of whom threatened to stop preparing meals for beneficiary schoolchildren due to the mounting arrears which they said had compelled them to operate under constrained budgets.
Since the reopening of schools, the caterers have withdrawn their services and are demanding that the government raise the daily amount per child and settle outstanding arrears. The aggrieved caterers are requesting payment of GHC3.50 per child before they end their strike.
It will be recalled that members of the School Feeding Caterers Association boycotted cooking services on Monday, May 16, over what they have described as an inadequate school feeding grant.
Chairperson of the Association, Juliana Cudjoe, indicated that caterers are making huge losses from cooking hot meals for the children at the current price allocation. Given the current economic challenges, she emphasized that the current allocation of ¢0.97 is insufficient to provide good school children services.
On its part, the School Feeding Secretariat promised to look into their concerns and subsequently invited the leadership of the Association to a meeting.