School enrolment declines in Kashmir, defeating mid-day meal scheme’s purpose

School enrolment declines in Kashmir, defeating mid-day meal scheme’s purpose
Srinagar The primary objective of government of India’s mid-day meal scheme, which is to increase student enrolment, has taken a hit in Jammu and Kashmir after an audit found that the number of enrolments has actually declined.
The report prepared by the comptroller and auditor general of India says student enrolment fell by 2.5 lakh students (from 13 lakh students in 2010-11 to 10.67 lakh today).
The CAG report pointed out the decline in student roll and dropout rate defeats the primary objective of the scheme, in which meals are provided to primary and upper primary students in government schools.
The report has also picked holes in the state government’s annual work plan and budget submitted to the human resource development ministry of India, saying it was “not realistic” and therefore affected the scheme.
In violation of norms, teachers have been running the scheme because the schools had not hired cooks-cum-helpers as required under the scheme.
The scheme necessitates that schools with 25 students are required to have one cook-cum-helper, while schools with 100 students should hire one additional cook.
In 90 schools, the audit found out that against the required 170 cooks, only 108 cooks had been hired in Kashmir. Similarly, it found shortage of as many as 119 cooks against 212 in Jammu region.
The report has also disclosed problems in the implementation of the scheme as it found out that meals were not served to students according to school calendar.
The meals have to be served for 220 days while it was provided only for 168 days to 195 days during 2010-2015, a shortfall of 29 percent to 44 percent. The schools attributed it to the inadequate funding and non-receipt of food grains from consumer affairs and public distribution department.
The school education department has not ensured quality check and maintenance of hygiene as per the guidelines. The department did not rope in CSIR institutes and national accreditation board for laboratories for sample examination and as such “there was no assurance of quality food provided to school children”.
Another objective of the scheme was to improve nutritional status of school children but the audit noticed that no basic indicator such as weight and height had been monitored. In 90 schools, weighing machines and height recorders were not available.
Although the facilities were available in eight schools in Kashmir, they had not been used.
The audit disclosed no regular health check-ups and micronutrients/deworming medicines were provided to children. The scheme allows that students should be administered medicine after six-months and weekly supplement of iron, folic acid, zinc and other supplements depending on deficiencies.
However, the audit found only two schools out of 180 schools examined had provided folic acid and Albendazole tablets in 2014.
Also, it said, no emergency medical plan existed in the schools, a mandatory in case of outbreak of any medical emergency.