The sorry state of affairs in the educational system in the State has come out in the open with poor implementation of the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme in most of the schools in the Balasore district.
With no funds from the government forthcoming for the last six months, it has become a headache for the teachers and Self-Helf Groups (SHGs) to run the scheme in schools. The school authorities and the SHGs are left with no option but to procure vegetables and grocery items on credit. Even some of the headmasters are reportedly spending money from their own pockets to keep the scheme running.
Buying groceries and vegetables on credit
Take the case of Firingipatna Primary School. With no funds provided by the government over the last six months, the Headmistress of the school is forced to buy groceries on credit. The effect is a compromise on the quality of the cooked food as they have to manage with fewer amounts of vegetables and grocery items.
“To buy eggs, pulses, vegetables, and other items for cooking mid-day meals, we require at least Rs 30,000- 32,000 every month. We have not received a single penny from the government towards the MDM scheme for the last six months. We have already bought items worth lakhs of rupees from the shops on credit. How long they will give us items on credit based on our face value? Even the cooking staff have not got their salary,” rued Baijayantimala Pradhan, Headmistress of Firingipatna Primary School.
Same is the case in Prasad Chandra Government High School under the Bhograi block in the district. A self-help group has been given the responsibility of providing mid-day meals to 210 students of the school.
The school has to spend Rs 35,000 every month to provide cooked food to the students. Now, school authorities are facing lots of difficulties in running the scheme as they have not received any funds for the last six months. Even the headmaster of Badamandaruni High School has been forced to borrow money with interest to run the provision.
“No funds have been released since April. Now, it has become very difficult for us to run the scheme by buying items on credit and spending money from our own pockets. If the government has given us the responsibility of the MDM scheme, the funds should be provided on time,” said Gopal Mohanty, Head Master of Badamandaruni High School.
Assurance from administration
Considering the current situation, many believe that the scheme meant for more than 2,49,000 students in the district could be stopped at any moment.
Meanwhile, Balasore Collector Dattatraya Bhausaheb Shinde assured that funds up to September will be released within a day or two.
“The Central government provides funds under the MDM scheme. We couldn’t provide funds under the scheme to the schools as the amount provided by the Central government got delayed. We have received the allotment till September last week and we have already sent it to the banks. It will be credited to the respective accounts tomorrow,” said Shinde.
Following the assurance from the Collector, it remains to be seen whether the funds under the MDM scheme will be released to more than 2,600 schools in the district before Durga Puja or not.