The Centre plans to extend the mid-day meal scheme in government schools over the summer holidays due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
An additional ₹958 crore will be provided for this purpose, Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank told State Education Ministers on Tuesday. An extra ₹790 crore would be provided to buy pulses, vegetable, oil, spices and fuel by hiking the annual allocation for cooking costs. The Centre will also provide 3 lakh tonnes of foodgrains, worth approximately ₹990 crore, officials said.
However, reports from States suggest that the current implementation of the mid-day meal scheme has been patchy and variable across different regions. While Kerala is providing actual cooked meals delivered to the homes of poor students, a large number of other States, including Karnataka and West Bengal, are providing dry rations to students’ families in lieu of cooked meals during the lockdown. Delhi schools do not seem to be offering either option, with officials simply pointing to the cooked meals being offered at general relief centres across the city.
Nationwide, 11.5 crore children studying in Class 1 to 8 in 11.34 lakh schools depend on the scheme for a nutritious lunch.
Board exam papers
Mr. Nishank also urged States to begin the process of evaluating answer sheets of completed State Board exams during the lockdown itself, and facilitate the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in its correction of answer sheets as well, according to an official statement.
Noting that an alternative academic calendar has already been released by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the Union Minister said States could adopt it according to their local situation. He also urged them to prepare safety guidelines in preparation for opening of schools post the lockdown.
The Education Ministers of 22 States and secretaries from another 14 States and Union Territories participated in the videoconference with the Union Minister.