Caterers in charge of the national school feeding programme in the Ashanti Region have withdrawn their services over unpaid arrears.
The caterers say the government has ignored several appeals to pay their arrears. They are also pushing for an increase in the feeding grant from GHC0.97 to GHC3 per child.
“Our reason is simple. During COVID-19, we cooked but the government didn’t make full payment,” a caterer who wants to remain anonymous told the media. “We have been complaining since [then] but to no avail. Currently, we’ve cooked for students for three terms, and they have still not made full payment.”
Another caterer said “it’s been days of struggle. Some of our colleagues are dying. They are being chased by the banks and we can’t feed the young children with such a meagre amount. This is unfair.”
One other caterer said “we miss Otiko Afisa. When she was there, she could pay for 40 days and communicate with us that she will pay the remaining 10 or 15 days, so, everybody will know that school feeding is owing us 15 days.
“But since Cynthia Morrison and the others took over, no one has been giving us any update. They only pay the number of days they want to pay. Period.”
An unhappy minister
The caterers began the protest at the Regional School Feeding Secretariat. They marched to the Ashanti Regional Coordinating Council to present a petition to the regional minister, Simon Osei-Mensah.
However, the minister turned his back on the protesters because he was not happy with the caterers’ response to his call for calm. There was a verbal exchange between Osei-Mensah and the caterers. This disrupted activities at the Regional Coordinating Council.
“If your child comes to you with chants in demand for a favour, will you be happy? You only brought a petition, why don’t you go ahead,” Osei-Mensah told the caterers who got enraged by his comment.
“Frustrated as we are, we came [to the RCC] to seek the minister’s intervention but that did not happen. We are unhappy with the minister’s conduct. He could have, at least, heard us. This is very weird, to say the least,” one of the caterers said angrily,
A delegation led by the regional minister’s personal assistant, Gloria Temmah Gambrah, later received the petition on the minister’s behalf.
The caterers expect that arrears for the third term of the previous academic year will be paid before they resume work. They have threatened to throw away meals cooked by colleagues who may go contrary to their decision.
The strike by the aggrieved caterers comes a day before basic schools resume academic work. There are fears that this development can affect teaching and learning.