DSEK fails to outsource Midday Meals scheme

DSEK fails to outsource Midday Meals scheme
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Burden on teachers impacting academics

Irshad Khan

Srinagar: The School Education department has failed to outsource the Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme at schools in Kashmir to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which is affecting academic work at the schools as the teachers have been forced to serve the meals themselves.
To “relieve teachers” from the additional workload of executing the MDM, the government had said in September last year that it would outsource the MDM to NGOs to let teachers focus more on academic work.
Even as NGOs approached the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK), the MDM’s executing agency in the Valley, with offers to implement the project several months ago, the project is yet to take off. Some NGOs had even approached the DSEK last year to run the scheme.
Several teachers from districts across the Valley told Kashmir Reader that leaving the MDM to the teachers badly affected academic work with schools having to dedicate teachers specifically for the execution of the scheme.
“Instead of teaching the students, the teacher has to indulge in more of a business activity at the schools,” Irshad Ahmad, a teacher posted at a middle school in North Kashmir’s Sopore, complained.
The middle school serves meals under the MDM scheme.
With the DSEK withholding funds for “months together”, teachers said that they had to experience humiliation at the hands of the shopkeepers they procured supplies from for taking the food items on credit.
“The funds are delayed by three-four months on a regular basis, so we have to pay from our own pockets,” said a teacher.
“Only after we furnish the utilisation certificates of the ration, are the funds released,” he added.
Barring rice, which was provided by the DSEK at the ration depots, the rest of the items, including the documentation charges, were borne by the teachers themselves, a teacher said.
A top official in the School Education Department, however, said that they were checking the “pros and cons” of outsourcing the scheme.
“It is not that easy. The plan is not to outsource the scheme at once, but on pilot basis. The NGOs have to be credible,” he said.
He said that the scheme could be outsourced in the next financial year.
The MDM scheme was launched in J&K in September 2004 “to give a boost to universalisation of primary education by increasing enrollment, retention and attendance”.
With a centre-to-state fund ratio of 90:10, the MDM in Kashmir is meant to be implemented by the DSEK.