The pilot programme for the project is to be held in the CMC area
The Education Ministry has plans for a project to provide education equipment for underprivileged students, Education Minister Susil Premajayantha said recently. Replying to a question from the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa at a Parliament session this week, the Minister said he is planning to hold discussions with the Samurdhi programme, to provide educational equipment and textbooks for underprivileged students. He said the pilot programme for the project has begun in the Colombo Municipal Council area, and the shortcomings of this pilot programme would be scrutinised before the project was introduced to around 100 education zones across the island.
On Friday, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa also asked the Education Minister to look into the nutrition of school children, as many students were attending school without having proper meals. He said the Government should at least provide lunch for the 4.3 million schoolchildren in the country, and also asked the Education Ministry to conduct a scientific survey on the nutritional and health conditions of students. Mr Premadasa also told the Education Minister to focus on the delay in awarding the Mahapola scholarships and other scholarships to students. In response, the Education Minister said the Mahapola and bursary scholarships were given to 110,000 university students.
The students were given Rs. 5500 or Rs. 5000 according to the scholarships. He said when he assumed duties as the Education Minister there was a three-month arrear of payments, but now the arrears had been covered. The Minister also elaborated that a separate section of the Ministry headed by an additional secretary was looking into the nutrition of students, and therefore reports would be called from the Province on a monthly basis. There were other children who were not getting their meals due to the prevailing economic condition, he added. Accordingly, President Ranil Wickremesinghe issued a Cabinet paper four weeks ago to create a separate fund to provide meals for children.
“Currently we are providing meals for school children, through Rs. four billion funds. We also increased the expenditure for each student to Rs. 60. But this increase too, is not enough, so we are planning to increase the expenditure for each student to Rs. 75,” Minister Premajayantha said. The Ministry was also planning to acquire another Rs. four billion from the World Food Programme (WFP) and was hoping to invest more in the free meals for school children programme by creating a separate fund. Moreover, 500 metric tonnes of rice donated by the Chinese government, had been received recently. Therefore the Ministry was able to provide 1.1 million students with a free lunch these past few weeks, the Minister added.