Irregularities in mid-day meal programme

Siraha, February 23

It has been reported that budget allocated for mid-day meal programme launched at government schools has been embezzled in Siraha.

The government had introduced mid-day meal programme in order to reduce dropout rate at government schools.

District Education Office, Siraha, provides Rs 15 per student to the schools where mid-day meal programme is launched. Sikraun Primary School at Mirchaiya Municipality-12 received Rs 139,860 to provide mid-day meal to 84 students for 111 days. But hardly around 10 students attend the school on a regular basis. It means the remaining budget is embezzled by the head teacher and DEO staffers in mutual understanding.

Head teacher Purushottam Bhurer and another teacher were teaching 3 students when the reporter reached the school a few days ago. Head teacher Bhurer argued that the number of students attending school that day was less due to a wedding ceremony in the locality.

There are four staffers, including two teachers, one assistant from child development centre and an attendant at the school.

Similarly, Janata Primary School in Sukhipur Rural Municipality-10 received Rs 616,050 to provide mid-day meal to 370 students. But only 70 to 120 students attend the school on a regular basis, according to Head Teacher Bijaya Narayan Yadav. He admitted that they were using the remaining money for the welfare of the school. “We have been using the money to provide salary to the teacher who has been appointed by the school itself to be paid through private resources,” said head teacher Yadav. There are altogether five teachers in the school.

DEO issued a total of Rs 372,960 for Naraha Primary School located in Naraha Rural Municipality for mid-day meal programme run for 224 students for 111 days. “But hardly around 25 students attend the school on a daily basis. Even the teachers do not attend the school regularly,” said Binod Lama, a local. There is only one teacher Surya Narayan Mandal, besides, a school helper and an assistant from child development centre.

As many as 225 public schools of the district have introduced mid-day meal programme but most of the schools have embezzled the money in collusion with staffers of DEO. As per statistics at DEO, Rs 53.8 million was released in the first installment to provide mid-day meal to 32,337 students in the district this year.

Account Officer at DEO Keshav Karki said his office released the budget as per the number of students recommended by the schools. “We do not have direct access to all the schools. Hence, we issue the budget as per the recommendation of the head teachers, resource persons and school supervisors,” said Karki.

Resource persons of the schools argued that as their main focus was on improving quality of education through lesson plans and other academic activities; they did not heed such financial irregularities in the schools.

“Head teachers and School Management Committee chairpersons keep the record of mid-day meal programme and they conduct audit themselves. We don’t have any role in this matter,” said Bhogendra Yadav, a resource person.