The Telegraph
Wednesday , March 19 , 2014
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Review team finds flaws in meal plan

- Call for dedicated efforts

Guwahati, March 18: A dedicated management structure is required to implement the midday meal scheme in Assam, a joint review mission has said.

It suggested that clear roles and responsibilities need to be chalked out for implementation of the scheme to help better monitoring right from the top to the bottom.

Members of the mission visited 48 schools in Nagaon (20 schools) and Kamrup (28 schools) districts and and collected data on enrolment, attendance and the number of children availing the scheme for a period of 10 days.

Nagaon was selected by the Centre on the basis of the scheme’s poor coverage against enrolment (86 per cent in primary and 68 per cent in upper primary) and Kamrup was selected by the state government.

The mission comprised the Centre, the education department of the state government and several NGOs.

Interacting with stakeholders, the review team observed that although the scheme encouraged children to attend school, the goal of full coverage and regularity in serving of meals in the state had been a challenge.

“Flow of funds and food grains need to be strengthened further. Emphasis has to be laid on safety and hygiene, creation of awareness and preparation of nutritionally balanced meals,” the team said.

The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, popularly known as midday meal scheme, is a flagship scheme of the ministry of human resource development. The programme was launched in 1995 in government, government-aided and local schools to enhance enrolment, attendance, retention of children in primary classes and to mitigate their hunger through nutritional support.

Some of the key issues identified by the mission are lack of dedicated management structure for implementation of the scheme, non-appointment of cook-cum-helpers according to the norms in 29 per cent of schools, delay in payment of honorarium to cook-cum-helpers, lack of hygienic kitchens in most of the schools, no proper guideline and notification from the district authorities on medical emergency plan and poor inspection of the scheme by district or block officers.

The mission observed that most of the 48 schools it visited maintained records. In 22 of these 48 schools, it found irregular supply of funds. Of the 28 schools it visited in Kamrup, 14 per cent were not getting cooking cost regularly.

The Centre had constituted missions in 2009 to review implementation of the midday meal scheme in states across the country.