NEW DELHI: Starting next year, midday meal is likely to be extended to students in Classes IX and X in government schools across the country.
A decision to this effect was taken in one of the first meetings chaired by Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank, officials said.
Following the meeting, a move has begun to prepare a note that will be sent to the expenditure finance committee before it can be moved to the Cabinet for approval.
“Our initial estimate is that an additional cost of Rs 4,000 crore will be required to extend the service till secondary level,” a senior official in the school education department said.
“We are hoping to get the Cabinet green signal by the year-end and the programme is likely to be expanded from the next financial year.”
Another official said the matter will also be discussed in the meeting of education ministers on June 22 that was convened to discuss the National Education Policy.
The MDM scheme is a school meal programme by the Centre designed to better nutritional status school-age children nationwide. The programme, launched centrally in 1995, first covered children only from Classes I-V, but in 2007 it was extended till class VIII.
Nearly 12 crore schoolchildren are provided meals in over 12.5 lakh government schools on all working days. As per the arrangement, while foodgrain is provided by the Centre, the cost of preparing food and rest of the expenditure in providing the meal is shared between the Centre and states.
Educationist Anjela Taneja hailed the proposed plan saying that providing hot meals in schools is a practice followed in most of the developed world.
“There is evidence that the dropout rates have gone down and the attendance in schools has improved substantially due to the scheme,” she said.
“There is, however, a flip side to it. It should be ensured that teachers do not get sucked into it and that there are enough people to run the scheme successfully on the ground.”
Draft policy suggests breakfast as well
The draft National Education Policy, meanwhile, has recommended expanding the scheme to also provide breakfast, along with midday meal, to school going children.
Free supply of foodgrains is 100 grams each child per school day at primary and 50 grams each child per school day at upper primary at present