Yangchen C Rinzin

The Cabinet on January 14 approved 50 percent raise in school stipend to Nu 1,500 from Nu 1,000 per child for three meals for boarders. This means each student would get Nu 17 for a meal.

The education ministry gives 60 percent of the stipend to Food Corporation of Bhutan for non-perishable items and 40 percent to the schools for perishable items.

However, the raise is less than the overall stipend proposed of Nu 2,040 per child, which the education ministry proposed based on the calculation of nutrition the children required.

Currently, there are three categories of feeding: three meals for boarders with a stipend of Nu 1,000 per child, two meals per day in primary schools with a stipend of Nu 670 per child and one meal a day for day scholars in central school with a stipend of Nu 335 per child.

The Cabinet order stated that with the revision of stipend, the education ministry should ensure the quality of meals provided to students and rationalise the breakfast facilities in rural schools. “The ministry should also explore providing lunch to other needy schools.”

Education minister JB Rai said that although the stipend has been raised less than what was required, the decision was made following several discussions with the finance ministry.

“Using our interest and common sense, we’ve come to such a decision while we understand there was a need to increase as per the proposal,” Lyonpo said. “The approved stipend should suffice because it was made looking at the budget constraints and Nu 17 per child is better than Nu 11.”

Lyonpo added there is always a chance to review and increase in future but this time looking at the available budget, they had to accept the approved raise.

“I didn’t argue much looking at the financial constraints and we’ve no choice than to agree. Because the finance ministry had done the calculations based on the budget available.”

Lyonpo said that there is no direction on the increased stipend whether to distribute it equally for the perishable and non-perishable. “The nutrition division of the ministry would take care of it.”

Earlier Lyonpo told Kuensel that the Cabinet approved education ministry’s proposal to increase the number of feeding schools in the 12th Plan and to raise the stipend.

Lyonpo had said that the budget would be proposed in the next financial year.

“This was found necessary because children have to still walk for hours,” Lyonpo said. “All the proposed schools were identified based on their needs.”

Today, there are 263 feeding schools, including 162 schools that the government took over from the WFP this year after it phased out of the country.