Free milk to remain

A MOTION to remove the Free Milk Program under Head 21 of the Ministry of Education budget was defeated in Parliament last night.

Opposition member Mikaele Leawere told Parliament last night that milk was a perishable item and would expire by the time it reached schools in rural areas.

“Some schools in the Central-Eastern Division have milk left over,” he said.

Mr Leawere said the free milk initiative was also causing difficulties for poorer parents whose children had gotten used to the program and wanted to drink milk at home.

“That’s why the milk, madam chair, is not providing the necessary assistance and there should be a study conducted as the effect this milk is giving to the students.”

He said there were rural schools where mothers were already taking care of catering for students.

“If the money can go to these organisations and provide an alternative to milk in providing these kinds of refreshments, in rural areas maybe you could buy a cow and its value multiplies.”

Former minister for education Dr Mahendra Reddy addressed the concerns of the Opposition saying the initiative had proven popular with parents and students and had improved attendance.

“It is there to ensure that those children who are unable to bring food to school have something so that they can fully concentrate on their studies,” he said.

Mr Reddy said the ministry had to be careful of how it made provisions to schools in response to the suggestions of providing livestock as an alternative source of milk.

“If the mothers are providing for the students then the school just has to tell us that they don’t need it and we will provide the milk and Weet-Bix somewhere else.”

$3.57 million is allocated for the Free Milk Program in the 2016-2017 budget.

Other defeated motions under Head 21 for the Ministry of Education included an increase to the budget for salaries of ECE teachers, an increase in the budget for cyclone rehabilitation for boarding facilities in primary schools.

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