Since the Mid-Day Meals (MDM) program was introduced in state schools across J&K, the government has allocated fees to school teachers for its implementation. From buying food to delivering rice, all of these duties were assigned to the teachers. The practice is still in vogue.
However, allocating MDM fees to school teachers was a wrong decision by successive regimes as it put a burden on the already overburdened teachers in the government. In addition to dealing with the academics, the teachers at state schools also keep admission papers, exam papers, library maintenance and all other tasks if there are no teaching staff at the schools.
In short, the teachers in most schools manage not only the academics but also the non-teaching duties, which shows the non-seriousness of the government in submitting the non-teaching positions.
Almost more than two decades have passed since MDM was introduced to students in state schools, but successive regimes had no idea whether to exempt teachers from this additional task.
The result continued to distract teachers from their main task – teaching students. Such a practice will adversely affect both students and teachers.
Undoubtedly, the teachers do not serve the meals, but managing the implementation of the program themselves is a big job for them. In addition to organizing the inventory, this is also a burden for the teachers.
Indirectly tied to the education department, I have found that the program has literally taken the safety off the teachers who are assigned the MDM fees in the schools. In the event of deficiencies, the teacher concerned falls victim to a delay in the release of funds or the delivery of food grains. Ideally, the teacher should have been relieved of this burden.
Six years ago, the school education department decided to outsource midday meal cooking (MDM) to local panchayat or a voluntary organization, including self-help groups (SHG) or reputable NGOs. The decision was made in a review meeting convened by the then Secretary General.
Even the department began exploring all options to outsource the cooking of MDM, which would ease the burden on teachers who would otherwise be kept busy with the program.
The initiative was welcomed because teachers have to waste a lot of time doing it and sometimes have to skip their classes to monitor the implementation of the program and the availability of rations in schools.
Teachers are also demanding distance from it, but the government initiative to outsource the cooking of MDM died a silent death.
With the aim of improving enrollment, retention and participation while improving the nutritional level of children, the National Nutritional Support Program for Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched as a centrally funded program on August 15, 1995.
In 2001, MDM became a cooked lunch program where each child in each state upper elementary school is served a prepared MDM for at least 200 days.
After two decades of successful implementation, the social audit report of the KU department for social work, with the support of the school education department, also suggested that the MDM should be outsourced. The recommendations were made on the basis of the opinions shared by the teachers.
In addition to the academics, the teachers are responsible to the community for any deficiencies in the MDM system, e.g. B. the unavailability of rooms for children to eat and the availability of other facilities. According to the content of the KU examination report, the children eat outdoors or in classrooms, since the majority of schools hardly have a separate room to eat during the lunch break. Each year the Government of India expresses concern about the delay in releasing funds from the Finance Department to the School Education Department. In view of the late availability of funds, it also becomes a problem for teachers to monitor the implementation of the program. The teacher remains preoccupied with managing the MDM crises that keep them away from academics and ultimately have a negative impact on students’ academics.
Given the government’s shortcomings and sluggishness in keeping the funds and grains available in schools, the time is right for the government to outsource the cooking of MDM meals. The move will relieve the teachers of this burden and they can concentrate on the students’ academics. Not only MDM, but government should act on practical grounds to make a change in the education sector. Let teachers be relieved of all non-teaching tasks and rather assigned to focus only on academics in the state schools.