State mid-day meal scheme faces hiccups

SHILLONG: Though the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) has been implemented in the state, there are several issues plaguing the scheme.
Special Officer, School Education & Literacy, Deputy State Project Director, SSA-RMSA, State Education Mission Authority of Meghalaya, Andrew W Warjri highlighted on the problems in implementing MDMS and also gave suggestions during a programme organised by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights recently.
He highlighted low salary of cook-cum-helpers as at present, cook-cum-helpers receive a salary of Rs 1000 per month for 10 months in a year.
Warjri pointed out that the amount is too meagre as the cooks have to spend half a day preparing mid day meal at school. Due to low salary and more time spent for cooking food and serving the children, the schools find it hard to retain trained cooks as they are constantly on the lookout for better job and pay.
Another concern is the shortage of manpower at district/sub-divisional level due to which monitoring of the scheme becomes a challenge.
At present there are only one Sub-Divisional School Education Officer (SDSEO), one dedicated District Education Officer-cum-office assistant for MDM and supported by SIs in each Sub-Divisional offices.
He suggested increase of dedicated manpower at State/District/Sub-Divisional/Blocks and monitoring of the scheme be strengthened as most of the staff under MDMS are on contractual basis.
Supply of drinking water also poses another challenge due to hilly terrain. Drinking water supply is a major issue as most of the places do not have water source for supplying water to the schools and suggested that daily availability of clean water at school levels should be there.
Again, procurement of LPG connection is also difficult. With regard to the teachers, they are overloaded with school work and MDM activities, hence full dedication on health and nutritional status of school children becomes difficult.
Warjri suggested the need to appoint a staff nurse at school level for keeping track on a day to day basis as most children are detected with 4Ds (Defects at birth, Deficiencies, Diseases and Developmental delays) as most of the teachers are busy with school and MDM activities.
Warjri is also of view that health check-up for cook-cum-helper can also be taken up along with the students. He observed that evaluation study should also be made to understand the impact of MDMS based on nutritional status of students in all districts by state Health Department.
Warjri also added that the state government has established a corpus fund amounting to Rs 10 crore since April 2015 to avoid any delay in releasing funds to schools. The corpus fund has been very helpful whenever there is delay in receiving funds, he said. Broadcasting of MDMS in FM Radio (98.3 Big FM) and in All India Radio helps the general public about the benefits of the schemes, he added.

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