Midday meal funds not released, teachers keeping scheme afloat with own money

Midday meal funds not released, teachers keeping scheme afloat with own money
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IRSHAD KHAN

SRINAGAR: The failure of the Department of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) to outsource the Mid Day Meals (MDM) scheme at schools in Kashmir is affecting academic work at the respective schools by forcing teachers to arrange the student meals.
To “relieve teachers” from the additional workload of executing the MDM, the government has been repeatedly saying that it would outsource the MDM to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to let teachers focus more on academic work.
Besides affecting academic work, the inordinate delay in the required funds has forced teachers to pay for the meals from their own pockets, thus taking a toll on them financially as well, teachers told Kashmir Reader.
The government has not paid for the MDM scheme for the current financial year, even as teachers have been bearing the expenditure on the ‘scheme’ for the last three months, several teachers complained.
With funds delayed for months together, “A school is compelled to keep a teacher for arranging meals and maintaining accounts (instead of teaching),” said Mukhtar Ahmad, a teacher from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
“The teacher has to himself arrange rice and vegetables from the market on a daily basis. It certainly affects the class work,” Mukhtar added.
Mukhtar said that they were compelled to “pay from our own pockets, because there is no advance payment of funds” for the scheme.
“The funds are released only after we furnish the utilisation certificates of the ration,” he added.
Some teachers are “even thrashed by shopkeepers if they delay their dues,” Mohammad Yousuf, a teacher from central Kashmir’s Budgam district, said.
“A teacher has to first look for particular shopkeepers who would lend them the items needed for the meals,” added Yousuf.
The DSEK’s funds for the MDM were delayed “by six months at times”, another teacher from Budgam complained.
Barring rice, which was provided by the DSEK at the ration depots, the rest of the costs, including documentation charges, were borne by the teachers themselves, a teacher said.
The MDM scheme was launched in J&K in September 2004, “to give a boost to universalisation of primary education by increasing enrolment, retention and attendance”.
Over the delay in funds for the MDM, Deputy Director Planning, DSEK, Mohammad Yousuf Rather said that the central government had not released the first instalment for the current financial.
“It is a Government of India scheme. When they will release the funds, we will forward them to the schools,” Rather said.
With a centre-to-state fund ratio of 90:10, the MDM in Kashmir is meant to be implemented by DSEK.
As per official figures, over 4, 50,000 children are enrolled at over 11,000 schools providing MDM in the state.

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