Mid-day meal programme ineffective in MyagdiCommunity schools in the district are distributing cash to the guardians instead of preparing mid-day meals.
Many community schools in Myagdi, a hill district of Gandaki Province, are distributing cash amounts meant for the mid-day meal programme to the children’s guardians. The stakeholders are concerned that the lump sum provided to the guardians can be misused and the school children deprived of nutritious meals.
“We are unable to prepare mid-day meals due to a lack of space in the school. We have been providing cash to the guardians of the respective students on the basis of their attendance rate,” said Surendra Karki, the headmaster at Balmandir Basic School in Beni Municipality-8.
Karki admits that distributing money instead of nutritious meals could mean that the amount can be misused.
“Most of the students in our school are the children of daily wage earners. The guardians usually give money to their wards to buy lunch and the children use the money to buy junk food like instant noodles and biscuits,” said Karki.
With an objective to provide nutritious foods to all children and control malnutrition in the province, the federal government provides Rs 15 per day to each student studying up to grade five in the community schools through the local units. The community school midday meal programme is being run in 42 out of 77 districts in the country. While the government manages the programme in 33 districts, the World Food Programme funds midday meals for the children of select schools in nine districts.
Under the programme, the community schools should prepare nutritious foods for the children as per separate menus prepared by the Centre for Education and Human Resource Development, which mentions 60 different foods in its menu.
Maya KC of Beni is a daily wage earner. She is often busy working at the field from dawn to dusk.
“Whenever I am free I prepare home-cooked meals for my daughter who is studying in grade three. But I give her packaged food most of the time as I cannot manage time to prepare meals for her,” she said.
According to Arjun Paudel, the education officer at Beni Municipality, community schools in Beni, the district headquarters, and other bazaar areas are unable to prepare mid-day meals so they are distributing cash to the guardians.
“Efforts are underway to prepare a separate menu as per the standards set by the government and implement the programme in all the community schools of Beni Municipality,” said Paudel.
According to him, a lack of budget, space and staff to run the kitchen and distribute meals to children is one of the major problems the schools are facing at present.
“We will address the issue and implement the mid-day meal programme in an effective way,” he said.
However, there are some community schools in Myagdi that have been effectively implementing the programme.
“We have been providing meals to all schoolchildren by utilising locally produced agricultural products. Separate menus have been prepared to provide nutritious foods to the children,” said Shanta Kumar Nepali, the headmaster at Gyan Prakash Secondary School in Annapurna Rural Municipality-3.
The federal government decided to launch the mid-day meal programme as a large number of children were found stunted and suffering from malnutrition. The programme also aims to control school dropouts and encourage children to attend classes regularly.
According to the Education Development and Coordination Unit, there are a total of 3,599 children at child development centres and 10,896 others studying in grades one to five in Myagdi district. The local units provide the budget for the mid-day meal programme to the community schools on the basis of the total number of school working days. The schools should run classes for at least 180 days in an academic year.
“Most of the schools are found distributing money to the guardians instead of preparing mid-day meals. We have been informed that the guardians take money while the children are deprived of nutritious meals. We have asked the local units to address the issue,” said Dal Bahadur Thapa Magar, chief at the Education Development and Coordination Unit.