A staggering 73% government primary and junior schools in Uttarakhand are yet to participate in the SMS-based monitoring system of the Centre’s midday meal scheme that covers nearly 8 lakh students in the state.
The monitoring system, launched by the central government, is aimed at keeping track of whether or not meals are served and to how many students. The system, launched in the state on September 1, was unveiled in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Chandigarh in August.
There are 17,670 schools in the state where the midday meal is served. Till now, only 4,706 schools have participated in the monitoring system, where teachers can send details of the midday meal served through SMS on toll free number 15544.
According to officials, this scheme was marred in Uttarakhand due to various issues. They said schools in Haridwar, Dehradun, Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh were the worst performers while schools in Pauri, US Nagar and Tehri performed relatively well.
“Ongoing protest of government teachers is one of the main obstacles. We are hopeful to achieve better results as soon as the teachers call off protest and resume work,” Mukul Kumar Sati, additional state project director Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSAV) and in-charge of the scheme in the state, told Hindustan Times.
Officials said older teachers were facing difficulties in sending SMS. “Many teachers have registered their number with us during joining which is non-functional now. So, we aren’t getting alerts from those numbers. We definitely need to revise this list. Also, there are at least 10% old teachers, who practically do not know how to send SMS. We will try to identify them and conduct training,” an education department official said requesting anonymity.
Under the midday meal scheme, every child in government and government aided primary schools across India is served a prepared meal to improve nutritional levels among them besides enhancing enrolment and attendance.
In Pauri, out of the 2,237 schools, 942 have started sending SMS alert, officials said. Tehri has 2003 schools and 695 have been sending SMS followed by US Nagar, where 668 out of the 1,222 schools have joined the system.
Uttarkashi was the worst performer, with only 137 of the 1,061 schools joining the system. In Haridwar, 201 out of the 1,062 schools have started sending SMS alert while Dehradun has 1,438 schools and only 202 have been sending SMS.
The department, however, is not entirely dependent on the monitoring system to keep a close watch on the midday meal.
School management committee (SMC), headed by parents, is constituted in each school to keep a tab on the scheme. The SMCs fill register at the school every day mentioning whether or not the midday meal was served and also check food quality.
Besides, a grievance toll free number is flashed in villages through village heads for reporting any complaints about the scheme.
“We want to achieve transparency in distribution of midday meal. We are hopeful of achieving 100% participation of schools in SMS-based monitoring,” said Ranjana, the additional secretary of the education department.
(With inputs from Arvind Moudgil)