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Pledge to improve nutrition in school meals and establish colleges partially fulfilled

To ensure that all children in schools were fed nutritious meals, the government decided to shoulder the cost of transporting boarding schools’ rations.  

The government’s had pledged to review the nutrition level of food given to students in boarding schools and appropriately improve it to meet the required nutrition levels. According to the 11th Plan final report, the Department of School Education (DSE) has made substantial achievement in providing school meals in 361 schools as of 2017 through boarding and day feeding programme. 

The government also initiated Iron, De-worming and Vitamin A supplementation programme in schools. The number of students in day feeding has increased from 19,818 in the 10th Plan to 33,051 in the 11th Plan and in full boarding from 33,481 in the last plan to 40,980 in the 11th Plan.

While the pledge remains fulfilled in terms of the initiatives taken, the Royal Audit Authority’s (RAA) performance report on the school-feeding programme in 16 schools dampens the achievement.

The performance report states that students in boarding schools are not eating the right or good food and observed lack of standard dietary requirement prescribed for students, lack of systematic monitoring system and implementation of an effective mechanism for monitoring nutritional status, among others.

The report also stated that the food prepared in visited schools was found unpalatable and unappetising, discouraging students to eat the right portion and thus, resulting in fewer intakes of nutrients.

An official from the nutrition and health division with education ministry said actions such as assessment to identify dietary composition of the actual school meals, and estimating the average quantity of food consumed and average nutrient intake, are being taken to propose for a stipend revision. The government had revised the stipend to Nu 1,000 a student a month from Nu 700 on meals for students under the school-feeding programme. 

The government’s pledge to establish three colleges in the east are partially fulfilled, although the three colleges are established on paper. Save for the IT College in Gyalposhing, the education college in Yonphula is administrated by Sherubtse College while the College of Zorig Chusum in Trashiyangtse was opened by renaming the institute of zorig chusum. 

As part of its school reform initiative, the government also established 63 central schools during their term. According to the State of the Nation Report, establishment of central schools would benefit the children of poor parents who do not have the resources to provide nutritious food, adequate clothing or extra classes. “The schools also improve the quality of education as students and teachers do not require frequent transfer.”

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay reported that there are 282 government Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centers providing care and education to children from 3 to 5 years. “These are the formative years of our children and we must provide them the best available and possible care during their most vulnerable years.” 

Fourteen schools also introduced special education needs (SEN) programme to promote inclusiveness and to provide education to the students with special needs. 

Karma Cheki

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