No payments have been made for nearly four months to the suppliers involved in providing lunch to school children, the Ceylon Teachers' Union General Secretary Joseph Stalin alleged today.
With the nonpayment, schoolchildren face a severe risk of malnutrition and hunger when schools re-open for the next term, Stalin said.
The government had launched the nutritional project, targeting 1.1 million schoolchildren out of 4.3 million. The program was launched with the help of Samurdhi beneficiaries, who served as the primary food suppliers. The program was introduced by the Education Ministry.
Stalin said the suppliers have incurred significant losses as a result of the government’s failure to pay the Samurdhi beneficiaries. A cabinet decision was taken on October 23, 2022, to increase the number of children under the free lunch program to 2 million but with the existing difficulties it is likely that the program had run into difficulties, Stalin said.
“We had a discussion in this regard with the Education Minister yesterday. But the minister claimed that the payments would be settled only after obtaining funds from the Treasury,” he said.
“The World Bank (WB) has already granted Rs. 5 billion as a donation to implement the project. I wonder what happened to that donation. A monthly expenditure of Rs. 1.5 million is required to address schoolchildren's nutritional problems,” Stalin said.
“We know that many countries and organizations, such as UNICEF, the World Food Organization, and China, have also given various donations to implement the project. So where have all these funds gone?” Stalin charged.
Therefore, CTU urged the government to pay the overdue payment for suppliers so that the nutritional problem for school children can continue when schools re-open. (Chaturanga Pradeep Samarawickrama)
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