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Feeding students

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.

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2 comments

  1. First, Might be student are not getting what they deserve i mean better quality food. They might be getting cheap food after minimizing the cost. Some may do this type of thing to make personal profit. Even ACC cant check because they inform before hand and meanwhil they might nave finished manupulating.
    Secondly, teacher may not be trained. Last time i saw nomination cretria in MoE website and there they are giving workshop by looking at the school name. For example, they gave workshop to school X previous year and this time this school wil not get. Thats ok its good decision but what happens if that teacher who is trained gets transfered to other school. Do u think that schoo will run effectively and thats where this type of problem comes in. This is just my thoughts that i am jotting down to help poor students but not to go against authority la.

  2. While considering the totally decentralized system of the past or the centralized procurement system that has been implemented since July 2014, every time a new school is added or a batch of students either enters a school or leaves one in every academic year, the system will face the irregular nature of loading. The schools that are all right with the allotted budget for non-perishable food items or the supplied amount of perishable food items by FCB in one year; will find things unmanageable the following year. Even the survey reports will produce different observations and results every year creating pressure on the government to keep on increasing the stipend allotted per student and that too uniformly in the present system of procurement and supply.

    What can be looked at is a professionally managed system of school meal catering that will ensure effective and efficient handling of changing numbers of schools, students and also their eating habits. Even this school meal dispatch system can be centralized at one front dealing with government or procurement through FCB and it necessarily needs to be decentralized in parts to deal with different schools spread across the country on the other front. This system can also be linked easily with the planned future central school system. More importantly, it even creates business opportunities for private participations where processing of perishable foods can be considered as one option reducing the burden on school authorities. It also provides more flexibility during the times when schools organize different intra-school activities, cultural or sports.

    Also allow me to take this opportunity to wish all of you a happy new year 2015, may the new year extends the reach of happiness and peace on this land of happiness.

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