Headteachers Demand Suspension Mid-Day Meal Distribution For Covid Threat

A teacher handing over mid day meal packet to a guardian in Santipur.

Krishnanagar, May 12: Advanced Society for Headmasters and Headmistresses, an organization of headteachers of government aided schools in Bengal, has appealed to the State Project Director of Cooked Mid-Day Meal project to suspend distribution of mid-day meal items from school to avoid spreading of Coronavirus.

Due to suspension of classes, school authorities have been distributing raw mid-day meal items to the parents of the students as per the state government’s directive. 

On average, teachers have been attending school at least six days in a month to prepare meal packets containing rice, lentils, potato, soybean, soap, for a month’s quantity and to distribute to the parents on the designated days.

Members of the organizations alleged that such distribution from school has put the teachers in a vulnerable situation due to heavy unhealthy gathering in this Covid situation, which already claimed the lives of several headteachers and assistant teachers.

As an alternative, the headteachers have requested the Project Director to credit the allotted funds to the bank account of the students so that the unhealthy gathering could be avoided.

“The guardians act callously and hardly bother to keep a safe distance. Most of them do not use face masks at all. The teachers needed to come to their close contact while handing over the meal packets and to get them signed on the register. This has become a deadly affair as many of our teachers have become tested positive. We have lost at least 25 headteachers so far, apart from many other assistant teachers”, said Chandan Kumar Maiti, secretary of the organizationwho is also headteacher of  Krishnachandrapur high school in Mathurapur (South 24 Parganas),

“We are sorry to say that many of the guardians are blatantly flouting the Covid precautionary measures and thus become the super-spreaders put the lives of the teachers at risk. This needed to be stopped…” he added further.

The organization members have also raised questions when the centre and state government have implemented 50% attendance to avoid gathering at offices, why such distribution of mid-day meal items being still distributed from school campus inviting people in danger.

“Since cooked food is not being distributed, the students can be paid the cash amount on a monthly basis calculating the per day rate of a cooked meal. The amount can be directed to bank accounts of the students of their parents”, Maiti said.

Many headteachers and assistant teachers have welcomed the demand made by the organizations. “The demand is quite logical, which the state government should consider on the humanitarian ground”.

However, a senior official of the Education Department found the demand not ‘feasible’ on realistic terms despite acknowledging the threat of the spread of the virus from the gathering of parents.

“The gatherings of the guardians are definitely a matter of concern since most of them are negligent about Covid precautions. But, the gross value of midday meal if credited to the bank account would appear as too meager to buy the items a student gets at school”, the official said.

“Generally a student is allotted Rs. 7 to Rs.8 per day for cooked food served at school. Within this value, the students are offered rice, daal, egg (twice a week) or soya bean, chhana. So such a meal for a month would be quite impossible to arrange at Rs. 210 to Rs.250. This is because the school purchases these items in bulk quantity at a very cheap rate”, the officer added.

An officer of the Project Director of Mid-day Meal said, “Distribution of Mid-day meals have become a compulsion to the Government. There is little scope to make an alternative to it even in the worst Covid situation”.

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