TN CM's Breakfast Scheme, Pudhumai Penn extended to gov't aided schools

About 1.1 lakh female students are studying in 8,300 government-aided schools across the state. Of this, nearly 70% of them are Tamil-medium students, sources revealed
Image for representative purpose only | (Picture: Express)
Image for representative purpose only | (Picture: Express)

Addressing a longstanding demand, the Government of Tamil Nadu has now extended the Chief Minister's Breakfast Scheme and the Puthumai Penn Scheme to government-aided schools, as part of budget announcements this year. However, this expansion is not without caveats: the Breakfast Scheme will cover only Class I to V students in rural areas, while the Puthumai Penn Scheme expansion is meant only for Tamil-medium students, The New Indian Express reported.

The Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar Puthumai Penn Thittam was introduced in 2022 for promoting higher education among girl students from economically disadvantaged sections by providing monthly assistance of Rs 1,000. The scheme currently has 2.73 lakh beneficiaries in the state. 

Further, Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu stated that the enrollment of female students in undergraduate courses has increased by 34% this year, with 34,460 more girl students enrolling under the scheme. The state has allocated Rs 370 crore towards the scheme for the next academic year. 

Minister Thennarasu added that the extension of the Chief Minister's Breakfast Scheme will benefit 2.5 lakh more students from government-aided schools starting the next academic year. About Rs 600 crore has been allocated towards the same.

Despite the partial nature of the expansions, several activists have welcomed the announcement and appreciated the government for accepting their demands. "The government has fulfilled two of our most important demands. We expect a similar response to our demands seeking extension of medical/engineering college seat reservation to students from government-aided schools, and approval of teacher appointments," said Fr SM John Kennedy, convener of a committee formed to safeguard rights of minorities and non-minorities in government-aided schools.

According to sources, about 1.1 lakh female students are studying in 8,300 government-aided schools across the state. Of this, nearly 70% of them are Tamil-medium students, who will benefit from the scheme expansion. While the expansion is welcome, the scheme should cover all government-aided schools across the state, said Prince Gajendra Babu, General Secretary of the State Platform for Common School System. The state should clarify if the students excluded from the expansion are considered to be from affluent sections of society, he added.

The state government has allocated Rs 44,042 crore for the school education department in this year's budget, Rs 3,743 crore higher than last year. The number includes Rs 1,000 crore for the construction of new classrooms under the Perasiriyar Anbazhaganar School Development Programme. 

Additionally, the state has also sanctioned Rs 300 crore for the establishment of smart classrooms in government primary schools and Rs 213 crore for improving the state's library infrastructure. Moreover, the second phase of the Illam Thedi Kalvi Scheme, introduced to bridge the learning gap during COVID-19, will be implemented in select areas during the next academic year, The New Indian Express reported.

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