Free nutritious lunch programme in all Bhutanese schools is still a far cry from reality. So, when the government declared last week that this pledge on foot of World Food Programme’s departure from the country had been achieved, the news was received with more than mere disbelief.
Why the government found it necessary to whitewash this failure not only stretches imagination, it is also in very poor taste. The government might well have set the implementation process in train but when the schools are still struggling to provide free nutritious lunch, the programme has not taken off. Period. There is no other way to view it or to say it.
In Bumpazor Primary School in Drepong, Mongar parents are making monetary contributions to provide midday meal. In this remote school, 17 kilometres away from Mongar with the student strength of 42, children walk for hours to and from school every day.
Stock-taking was necessary because free nutritious lunch programme in all schools was one of the key 120-day pledges of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa when the political parties were caught in the eye of the election storm not long past. It would not have hurt the government’s credibility had it found the courage to tell it like it is. Failure to do so and lying to the nation patently instead risks the government’s image and standing to drop on the floor. Already it is something of a raw nerve. Hopefully, the government will refrain from mucking them and itself up with more untruths.
But there is a lesson here – for the government and the people: count not thy chickens that unhatched be. Miscalculation can land us in tight depths. Hiding the facts and presenting misinformation to the people doesn’t benefit anyone, least the government.
So, in the end, what’s the truth?
According to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, the policy of providing food had to be treated with a fine-tooth comb, budget arrangements made and stipend rise to settle on. Some of these have been done, rather “achieved”, to borrow the government’s language. Others await their good day.
School feeding programme must receive priority. The government has missed its own deadline. We expect it to expedite the processes. Urgently.