A directive by the state government instructing all private schools to ensure that they build a separate kitchen on their premises in order to provide mid-day meals to students has not gone down well with school authorities in the city.
In order to make the mid-day meal scheme efficient, the state government has set a deadline to construct the kitchen by March 31, 2013.
But, schools are opposing the decision stating that running a kitchen at the school is not feasible and will lead to several problems.
Till now the government did not extend monetary help to private aided schools to build kitchens under the mid-day meal scheme.
But, in a recent government resolution (November 21), the state government announced that from now onwards private schools would receive 75 per cent of kitchen construction costs, which would be provided by the Central government.
The school would have to make available the remaining 25 per cent.
Currently, private schools in the city outsource food from self-help groups and through central kitchens to provide cooked food for students of I to VIII standard under the meal scheme.
“To establish a separate kitchen at every school is not at all practical. To manage food grains, and LPG cylinder stocks will be tedious job. LPG cylinders are a safety risk, and may jeopardize lives, as there is always a danger of leakage,” said Deepti Chivate, principal at Sheth Dagduram Kataria High School.
“My school has a total 800 students between V and VIII standard who are eligible for mid-day meal. Currently we order food from a central kitchen located in Bharati Vidyapeeth campus, which supplies cooked food to another four schools located in Mukundnagar and Swargate area. This practice is ideal, as my school does not have the place or staff to run the meal scheme.” Chivate said.
“Our school is not aware about this new government decision. But certainly to run a kitchen at the school would be very difficult,” said Ujwala Chaphekar, principal at Abhinav Vidyalaya.
Many schools are criticising the government decision by saying it’s a politically influenced decision.
“As all self-help groups have some political connections, the latest decision will create additional work orders for these organisations. Moreover, the motive behind the mid-day meal scheme is to provide quality food to students from lower strata of the society. But, in private schools, the scenario is just the opposite, as many parents have requested us not to provide mid-day meals, as they are sceptical of the food quality served,” said a school principal, on condition of anonymity.
State education director (Primary) Dr Shridhar Salunke made it clear that it is mandatory for private aided schools to construct a kitchen before March 31. “If the Centre is funding 75 per cent of the construction costs, then what is the problem?” Salunke said.