The cabinet on Monday endorsed a draft policy setting a target to bring the students of all government primary schools under the programme of midday meal for free in phases by 2023.
The primary and mass education ministry placed the draft of ‘National School Meal Policy 2019’ in the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office seeking its approval.
‘As per the policy, the midday meal to be served by the government primary schools would ensure 30 per cent of the required calorie a day for each student aged between 3 to 12,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told a press briefing at the secretariat after the meeting.
He said that only the students of all government primary schools would come under the programme of the midday meal, now being piloted under a project in 107 upazilas.
Chaired by prime minister Sheikh Hasina, the cabinet also approved the Mongla Port Authority Bill 2018, replacing the Mongla Port Authority Ordinance of 1976, which was a martial-law proclamation and was later annulled by the Supreme Court like such other proclamations.
It also endorsed the draft Bangladesh Engineering Research Council Bill, 2018 and the draft neuro-developmental disability-related coordinated/special education guideline 2019 to streamline institutions providing education to the children with disabilities and down syndromes, said the cabinet secretary.
Each such school must have at least 75 students and the student-teacher ratio would have to be 5:1 to get government facilities, he said.
About the school meal policy, he said that the students would be provided cooked food five days a week and fortified biscuits one day in order to check dropout of students and ensure their nutrition.
He said that schools located in remote areas and coastal belts would initially come under the meal programme and it would be implemented by 2023 at all 66,000 government primary schools now having 1,40,00,000 students.
The policy would by the time turn into a law as it proposed establishing the ‘National School Meal Authority’ to implement and supervise the programme.
It would require Tk 2,835 crore per year for giving fortified biscuits to the students six days a week, Tk 5,560 crore for giving cooked foods five days and biscuits one day a week while Taka 7,475 crore if egg, banana and bread are given all six days, primary and mass education ministry’s additional secretary (development) Md Gias Uddin Ahmed told reporters.
Referring to a survey, he said that the rate of presence of the students increased by 11 per cent in schools where cooked foods were served to the students and by 6 per cent where biscuits were given.
And the dropout rate was decreased by at least 6.6 per cent for providing the meals at schools, he added.
The government is currently providing biscuit packs ( 75-gram each) to nearly three million children at primary schools in 104 upazilas under the current pilot project involving Taka 474 crore and it will end by December in 2020, he said, adding that the government was giving cooked meal to primary school students in three upazilas of Barguna, Jamalpur and Bandarban.
The government has been piloting the school meal project since 2001, the additional secretary said.
Monday’s cabinet also endorsed forming a joint venture company named ‘Bangladesh Power Equipment Manufacturing Company’ under the initiative of state-owned Rural Power Company Limited of Bangladesh and non-government company Shenzhen Star Instrument Co Limited of China.
It also approved forming another company Startup Bangladesh Limited under the Bangladesh Computer Council to develop entrepreneurs in the information and communication sector, said Shafiul Alam.
He said that the company would provide loans to the ICT entrepreneurs on easy terms.
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