Teachers pay from pocket to feed tribal students in Tamil Nadu

Delay in timely release of feeding charges causing financial burden
Image of tribal students used for representational purpose (File Photo | EPS)
Image of tribal students used for representational purpose (File Photo | EPS)

CHENNAI:  Every month, headmasters, wardens and teachers working in Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare schools and hostels across the state shell out lakhs of rupees from their own pockets to make up for the delay in the release of feeding charges by the government. 

Even though the funds are allocated in the budget, the staff in these schools and hostels get reimbursed only once in three to four months. In each school,  on average, headmasters spend around Rs 60,000 a month on this depending on the number of students. The government provides Rs 1,000 per month for each school student and Rs 1,100 for college students. As they only draw a salary of around the same amount, it puts an undue burden on their financials.

Adding to the woes is the delay in reimbursement of feeding charges for April to several tribal welfare schools. “The feeding charges are essential to run a hostel. For example, if there is a hostel with 50 students in a school, the headmaster and teachers have to spend at least Rs 1.5 lakh for three months (Rs 50,000/month). This also leads to corruption in many cases. Tahsildars demand a 10-30% commission on the amount to sanction it. As desperate headmasters and wardens pay the commission, this will only affect the students as the quality of food will go down,” said a member of Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department Teachers-Warden Federation.

Headmasters and wardens in several government tribal residential (GTR) schools in Kallakurichi, Tiruvannamalai and Vellore districts are still awaiting the tribal welfare department’s sanction of feeding charges amounting to Rs 66.5 lakh spent in 2016-17. The tribal welfare department had sent a circular to the schools to compulsorily conduct classes in schools till April 28.

However, it has now sent another circular stating that the schools have to claim the feeding charges for April month separately if they have functioned. “This is only an attempt to delay the funds and increase the financial burden on the staff,” said the members of the association. 

“We have credit in shops and cooperative societies to buy groceries, vegetables and meat. We are also forced to borrow money for interest when the funds are delayed,” said a headmaster of a tribal welfare school in Kallakurichi. Officials from the department said that they had discussed releasing funds early or on a monthly basis, however, a decision in this regard is yet to be taken.

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The New Indian Express