Express press service

KOZHIKODE: High prices for commodities and cooking gas have affected the midday meal program in schools across the state. To continue the distribution of midday meals, the teachers’ associations are demanding an increase in the project allowance while several schools are in financial crisis.

The government, still following the 2016 tariffs, allows Rs 8 per child per day for schools with a supply capacity of 150 students. Teachers are struggling to distribute food within the budget set six years ago, said a teacher association official, who did not wish to be named.

“Expenses for providing each child with 300ml of milk and one egg per week, in addition to buying vegetables, spices and cooking gas, should be covered by this amount. In 2016, the price of a chicken egg was Rs 3.15, and now it has risen to Rs 5.50. The price of the cooking gas cylinder has exceeded Rs 1,000,” he pointed out. He also cited the example of a school which suffered a loss of Rs 7,500 under the midday meal project last month.

“There are schools that suffer losses of more than Rs 10,000. The government only provides the rice and the remuneration of the cooks (600 Rs per day). The government has not accepted teachers’ unions’ demands to raise fares for many years,” he said.

Under these circumstances, principals have to put aside their daily school routines and manage midday meals, the head of the teachers’ association pointed out. “A configuration on the model of Kudumbashree or community kitchen is recommended to manage this. We are planning a march to the offices of the Deputy Director of Education across Kerala on August 20 and a hunger strike outside the secretariat until the government finds a solution,” he said.

Children in grades 1 to 8 receive food as part of the midday meal program. As it stands, headteachers say that if they get at least Rs 15 per student, they can provide lunch. Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and School Management Committees (SMCs) from 10 schools in the Kodiyathur panchayat recently formed a collective to find a solution to the midday meal crisis.

“The salaries of the cooks have also been delayed for two months. An allowance of Rs 2,000 each for the months of April and May, when the school was not functioning, was also postponed. Schools with fewer than 150 to 200 students suffer a minimum loss of Rs 4,000 every month,” said Abdul Rasak CV, Chairman of HSS Government PTA, Cheruvadi, and Chairman of PTA and SMC Collective.

He said asking PTA members to find sponsors and other ways to fund midday meals is not a permanent solution. “When we saw that other schools in the locality were also facing the same problem, we formed a panchayat-level committee and sent petitions to the MLA and Rahul Gandhi, MLA,” Rasak added.

KOZHIKODE: High prices for commodities and cooking gas have affected the midday meal program in schools across the state. To continue the distribution of midday meals, the teachers’ associations are demanding an increase in the project allowance while several schools are in financial crisis. The government, still following the 2016 tariffs, allows Rs 8 per child per day for schools with a supply capacity of 150 students. Teachers are struggling to distribute food within the budget set six years ago, said a teacher association official, who did not wish to be named. “Expenses for providing each child with 300ml of milk and one egg per week, in addition to buying vegetables, spices and cooking gas, should be covered by this amount. In 2016, the price of a chicken egg was Rs 3.15, and now it has risen to Rs 5.50. The price of the cooking gas cylinder has exceeded Rs 1,000,” he pointed out. He also cited the example of a school which suffered a loss of Rs 7,500 under the midday meal project last month. “There are schools that suffer losses of more than Rs 10,000. The government only provides the rice and the remuneration of the cooks (600 Rs per day). The government has not accepted teachers’ unions’ demands to raise fares for many years,” he said. Under these circumstances, principals have to put aside their daily school routines and manage midday meals, the head of the teachers’ association pointed out. “A configuration on the model of Kudumbashree or community kitchen is recommended to manage this. We are planning a march to the offices of the Deputy Director of Education across Kerala on August 20 and a hunger strike outside the secretariat until the government finds a solution,” he said. Children in grades 1 to 8 receive food as part of the midday meal program. As it stands, headteachers say that if they get at least Rs 15 per student, they can provide lunch. Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and School Management Committees (SMCs) from 10 schools in the Kodiyathur panchayat recently formed a collective to find a solution to the midday meal crisis. “The salaries of the cooks have also been delayed for two months. An allowance of Rs 2,000 each for the months of April and May, when the school was not functioning, was also postponed. Schools with less than 150 to 200 students suffer a minimum loss of Rs 4,000 every month,” said Abdul Rasak CV, Chairman of HSS Government PTA, Cheruvadi, and Chairman of PTA and SMC Collective. He said asking PTA members to find sponsors and other ways to fund midday meals is not a permanent solution. “When we found out that other schools in the locality were also facing the same problem, we formed a panchayat-level committee and sent petitions to the MLA and Rahul Gandhi, MLA,” Rasak added.