The annual education conference is an important event for educationists. It is one event where educationists from different parts of the country come together once a year and engage in vigorous discussions on issues and policies that have bearing on thousands of students across the country.
Apart from sharing of administrative problems, the conference also provides a platform to review and share feedback and experiences of decisions the ministry make. One important feedback was on the centralised procurement system to improve the school-feeding programme. Six months after the government, with all the good intention, decided to implement the centralised procurement system, educationists are calling for a review.
The new system after careful thinking was decided to improve the school-feeding programme by outsourcing the supply of non-perishable food items to the Food Corporation of Bhutan. Transporting food to schools ate up a huge chunk of the budget, 60 percent, and the ministry hoped that with the transportation and distribution taken care, schools would be able to make best use of the remaining.
The experience is not quite as expected. There seem to be more rice and lentil and not food that provide nutrition like meat or egg. The feedback is that while there is an excess of some items, often resulting in waste through damage, there is shortage of other crucial items. The concerns are expressed by school principals who have experienced it first hand in their own schools. This is a genuine concern.
The conference provides a good platform to discuss better ways, even if the new system is only in its sixth month. The issue was brought up during the dzongkhag education officer’s conference earlier in the year. This indicates that this was becoming an issue right from the beginning. If the new system is not working and not meeting the desired objectives, there is no point waiting any further and let students suffer.
The Lyonchhoen had said that the government couldn’t compromise the health of the students because of lack of nutrition in the food they are fed with. If those overseeing the feeding programme are calling for a review, there is all the reason to do it. The ministry shouldn’t wait for formal complains to review it.
At the same time, schools cannot leave it alone to the ministry to solve all the problems. There should be better management at individual school level. Feeding hundreds of people is always difficult, but knowing that they have to for nine months in a year, there should be initiatives from the school side. For instance, they cannot let FCB dump what is already in excess because they drop food supplies quarterly.
The objective is same whether it is the school head or the minister- to feed students better food. There should be a way out and the annual conference is one place where issues and ideas are thrashed out.
It will be too late to review if we see more students suffer from nutrition deficiency related diseases.