Mid-day meal funds delay puts Kerala government schools in debt

Kerala School Mid-Day Meals: Principals, teachers, parents' associations are chipping in to pay for food or racking up debt.

Kerala government school teachers are having to pool money to provide mid day meals for students.Kerala government school teachers are having to pool money to provide mid day meals for students.

Atul Krishna | March 18, 2023 | 07:09 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The Kerala government has not provided funds for the PM Poshan scheme or the Mid Day Meal Scheme for the past four to five months leaving government school teachers to scramble to raise funds to meet the expenses.

Teachers said that most schools are either in debt and owe money to the shops from which they regularly buy groceries or are having to pool funds from their own pockets to meet the expenses.

“It has been four months since we have received funds. The government is saying they haven’t received enough funds from the central government. But the principals and the mid-day meal workers are in a huge crisis,” said K Abdul Majeed, senior vice president of Kerala Pradesh School Teachers’ Association.

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The funds for the PM Poshan Scheme are provided jointly by the union and the state governments at a ratio of 60:40. According to local reports, the education department has said that the union government only gave Rs 167.38 crore out of the allotted Rs 292.54 crore.

“In many schools, headmasters borrow money from the teachers. There are also situations where headmasters have to take loan amounts. In some places, they will have debt at the stores from which they buy routinely. But now that schools are about to close, they are asking for the money back,” said Majeed.

The funds for the mid day meal scheme are usually transferred directly to the school principals’ accounts. However, principals have not received any money for the past few months.

“In my school, all the staff have contributed money from their pockets and for now we have closed most of the debts. However, there are some stores in which we still have some debt. But since I’m from here and the store owners know they haven’t created an issue so far,” said Majeed.

Mid-Day Meal Scheme: No 'advance funds'

Teachers said that the government used to provide advance funds for the mid day meals which they can retrieve by submitting the expenditure bill. However, in the past one or two years, the government has stopped providing the advanced funds and the fund transfer process was only initiated after the schools submitted the expenditure bills.

“We can’t deny food to the children so we are having to pay for it. It’s the principals who are managing this in most of the schools. In some places, teachers have contributed, in some places, the parents teachers association have come forward to help, but the brunt of these fund crunches is borne by the principals,” P. K. Aravindan, headmaster of Government Upper Primary School, Civil Station, Kozhikode.

Also Read| Mid-day meal workers in UP unpaid for months, funds delayed

Teachers also said that the government has not raised the mid day meal funds since 2016 causing some schools to have accruing debts in lakhs.The Kerala government schools also provide milk twice a week, and eggs once a week for each student. Teachers said that without increasing the allocated amounts it is very difficult to provide milk and eggs for the students.

“The amount of funds that are allocated are not enough. The last increase in the funds was back in 2016. This amount is not enough to give milk and eggs for children. If you look at the prices of gas, milk, vegetables and the other ingredients they have increased to about 100 percent to 200 percent from what it was in 2016,” said Aravindan. “If it’s a school with relatively few students they are having debts of around Rs 10,000 per month. For the bigger schools, the debt will be in lakhs. Moreover, the money that is supposed to be given has not been provided.”

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