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Govt yet to outsource midday meals scheme in schools

By Irshad Khan

Srinagar, Mar 31: The government has not yet outsourced the Mid Day Meals scheme in the schools in Kashmir to the non-governmental organisations, with even the ‘pilot project’ aimed to be started in two districts not having started.
To “relieve teachers” from the additional workload of executing it, the government in September said it would outsource the scheme to NGOs.
Despite the NGOs offering their services to the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK), which is the agency executing the scheme in the valley, the project is yet to take off.
Excluding Leh and Kargil, the insiders said, the NGOs have offered to take up the scheme across Kashmir.
A couple of such NGOs told The Kashmir Monitor that the scheme has not been outsourced to them as yet.
An official in the DSEK said that leaving the scheme in the hands of teachers affected the academic work in the schools.
“Instead of teaching the students, the teacher named to implement the scheme has to indulge in business,” he said.
Several teachers involved with the scheme admitted that their teaching was getting work, as they were compelled to keep a separate teacher for maintaining the accounts of the scheme.
With the DSEK withholding funds for “months together”, a teacher said that they had to experience humiliation at the hands of the shopkeepers for taking the food items on credit.
Over the government’s failure to outsource the scheme to the NGOs, Joint Director Planning, Education Department, Javed Iqbal Matoo, said 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.
Outsourcing the scheme has not yet started even on pilot basis in Samba and Jammu districts, Matoo admitted.
He said the project would be started in the districts in the next financial year.
“If it takes off in Jammu, we will accordingly extend it to Srinagar,” he added.
Over the teachers saying that the scheme in its present form affected the academic work, Matoo said, “They just have to skip one class for the scheme. It is a matter of 40 minutes.”