Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rejected a proposal to distribute khichuri to students by cooking in primary schools across the country. A proposal to distribute hot meals among students at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Tuesday was sent back without approval. The Prime Minister directed the Department of Primary Education to provide other food instead of khichuri. Planning Minister MA Mannan said this at a press conference after the ECNEC meeting.
According to meeting sources, at today’s ECNEC meeting, the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education proposed a project to feed 14.6 million students across the country five days a week with khichuri and biscuits one day. The total cost for the implementation of the project titled ‘Primary School Mill’ has been shown as Tk 16,290 crore. But the Prime Minister sent the project back without approving it.
Several government policymakers present at the meeting said the prime minister did not like the proposal to hire NGOs under the project, rent food warehouses and cook khichuri for 14.7 million primary school students across the country five days a week. The school has to hire a contractor to distribute khichuri to the students. NGOs have to be recruited. You have to shop for pots and pans.
Rice, pulses, oil, vegetables — shopping so much can disrupt education. In order to implement this, school teachers will also focus on cooking and shopping. The Prime Minister directed the officials of the ministry to consider whether banana-biscuits, milk-eggs can be given to the students of the school without implementing such a huge task.
During the meeting, the Prime Minister said the initiative to distribute khichuri among the students in primary schools is good. But implementing it will create various complications. However, if the rich people of the society want to distribute food to the school with their own money, it will be open. But the ECNEC meeting discussed that it is not possible for the government to implement this project with such a huge budget. In other words, it is not possible to implement this project with government money.
After the ECNEC meeting, the planning minister told reporters that the prime minister had asked him to change the proposal to distribute food to schools. If this proposal is implemented, it will ruin the education of the children in the school. The Prime Minister asked to consider whether the project can be implemented in any other framework.
According to the project documents, a non-governmental organization (NGO) will be appointed in each district to distribute khichuri. Under the project, vegetables including rice, pulses, oil and eggs will be procured at a cost of Tk 15,000 crore. The warehouse will be rented to keep it after shopping. Rental transport will be taken to deliver the food items to the school. This will cost Tk 1,630 crore for NGO workers ‘salaries, warehousing for food storage, transportation, cooks’ salaries and service charges.
But how much will be spent on salaries and allowances of NGO workers, how much will be spent on renting 200 warehouses for storing food, how much will be spent on transportation, how much will be spent on those who will cook and how much will be spent on service charges, the project proposal did not say in detail. . In general, the Development Project Proposal (DPP) has an obligation to specify how much money will be spent in which sector.
According to the information received from the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, the project has been taken up to reduce the dropout rate at the primary level as well as to increase the school enrollment and attendance rate. The total cost of implementation of the project titled ‘Primary School Mill’ has been shown to be Tk 18,290 crore, the entire cost of which was proposed to be borne by the government. But at today’s ECNEC meeting, the project was sent back without approval.
Former Primary and Mass Education Secretary Asif Uz Zaman told Prothom Alo that distributing food in primary schools across the country is undoubtedly a good initiative. But in the current reality in Bangladesh, there are questions about how much success there will be in the management of food distribution and cooking among the students. The biggest challenge in this project is to ensure good governance.