Schools in West Bengal struggle to serve midday meals due to rising prices

The Bengal Primary Teachers Association has demanded to increase the midday meal allowance by Rs 4.97 for primary level, Rs 7.45 for upper primary level students.

School lunches in West Bengal (Representative image: Shutterstock)

CALCULATED: Primary and tertiary schools in West Bengal are struggling to serve midday meals to students due to rising commodity prices, according to authorities of different schools in the districts. The Bengal Primary Teachers Association has drawn the attention of the Department of School Education to the matter and requested that the current midday meal allowance of Rs 4.97 for each primary student and 7, 45 rupees for each upper primary pupil to be increased so that the midday meal menu is not cobbled together for the children and their nutritional aspects are not compromised.

The headmaster of a higher primary school in Purba Medinipur district, Ananda Handa, told PTI on behalf of the association “we have to tinker with the menu like the introduction of egg curry or boiled egg during one day a week, unlike twice in the past.However, the management of various schools stick to the diet of dal, soybeans, mixed vegetables, boiled potatoes, because we don’t want compromise on the issue of our children’s health.” Teachers often have to bear the expense out of pocket in critical situations, he said.

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Handa said a large number of students were going to schools after the campuses opened once the pandemic phase was over and they risked being deprived of the specified lunch menu due to the spiral. prices of basic necessities. “If 150 grams of rice is allocated to one person per day, how come 3 kg per month helps. If 150 grams of rice per day is insufficient for a child, an allocation of 3 kg per month is even lower and far exceeds the 150 gram limit. This amount is insufficient for a normal child. We demand that at least Rs 50-100 be increased for each child,” he said. While primary schools are intended for students in grades 1 to 4, students in grades 5 to 8 are in upper primary schools. “We want children in grades 1 to 8 to receive regular musur dal that meets their health requirements,” said he declared.

Lunch in schools

An education official said 83,945 schools with 1,15,82,658 students receive a free cooked midday meal every day and there have been no reports that the midday meal project has been affected since. which he resumed two months ago after a two-year hiatus. For the past two years, due to the pandemic, packets of rice, soybeans and dal were distributed to parents of students in respective schools on a particular day. Another school department official said there were 15,000 SSKs (Shishu Siksha Kendra – primary schools run by zilla parishads).

Firoza Begum, principal of a primary school in Murshidabad district, said “we still maintain the routine of soybeans for three days and eggs for one day with difficulty. It is difficult as the price of an egg is between Rs 5.50-6 and we are trying to adjust without compromising the food nutrition part.We have to buy potatoes at a price of Rs 15/kg minimum compared to Rs 5/kg in pre-pandemic days.She said that the lunch is more essential for students from disadvantaged backgrounds in rural areas and that they have made representations to the local BDO office to make the situation difficult.

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A teacher at a school in Malda, not wishing to be named, said “we are forced to inflate the number of pupils present. Let’s say there are 100 pupils in a class and 80 usually attend. For s ‘to ensure children don’t miss their usual meal quota appointment, we are sending requirements for 90 students.’

However, the principal of a primary school in South 24 Parganas district, Rathindranath Das, said “there has been no change in the menu for children at our school in the past two months. Eggs are given as usual. But there has been a tension in the costs and expenses which have increased a little.” Naba Kumar Karmakar of Paschim Bango Sikshak Samity said that while primary and higher schools in the metropolis are not facing a pinch when it comes to midday meals as these programs are funded by many NGOs, the situation is difficult for upper primary schools. in the districts of the state. In the pre-pandemic days, the daily allowance for each pupil was Rs 4.48 at primary level and Rs 6.71 for each pupil at upper primary level.

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