Schools in Sambalpur do not have enough cooks and helpers to implement the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme.
The scheme was transferred from Woman and Child Development Department to School & Mass Education Department in October 2011 with the district nodal officer in charge of implementation of the scheme.
A total of 1,14,794 students enrolled in 1583 schools comprising primary and upper primary schools are covered under the scheme in the district. The 2,974 cooks and helpers have been engaged to cook meals in some schools, others are devoid of cooking staff as per the student strength.
The DI of Schools Amulya Kumar Pradhan puts this figure at 250.
According to the provision of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), there has to be one cook for a school having student strength of a minimum of 25 students, while a cook and a helper are required where the student strength is between 25 and 100 and three staff for schools with 100 or more students. Ironically, there is not a single school having three cooking staff in spite of having student strength of more than 100.
Besides the dearth of kitchen staff, many schools do not have proper kitchens. At Rengloi Primary School, the kitchen shed has been converted into a store room while MDM is cooked in the verandah of the school.
This despite the fact that `1.20 crore is at the disposal of DI of Schools for the purpose.“The amount sanctioned for the construction of each kitchen shed with RCC roof was mere `60,000,” Pradhan said, adding that he has written to the State Government to review the allocation in view of cost escalation. “Because of the meagre allotment, construction of kitchen has been put on hold,” he said.
Sources said while there have been no complaint about the meal scheme being managed by school management committees, students have alleged that bad quality food being served to them in their schools where meals are cooked by the SHGs.