LAHORE: The future of hundreds of school health and nutrition supervisors in BS-17 hangs in the balance as the Health Department has refused to extend their contracts and left district coordination officers in charge of their fate, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The health and nutrition supervisors were hired in 2008 for 2-3 year contracts under the Punjab Health Sector Reform Programme (PHSRP), which was funded by the Asian Development Bank.
A supervisor each was recruited to the basic health units (BHUs) in 2008 and 2009 for salaries of Rs29,000 per month. According to the Health Department, there are currently over 1,000 school health and nutrition supervisors working in the province under the National School Health Programme.
Their job is to promote health education and conduct screening programmes in public schools. They are meant to teach teachers to deliver lectures on nutrition to their students. They are supposed to form committees to screen children for hearing, vision and skin diseases and refer the sick ones to BHUs.
An official in the Health Department said that there had been no service rules and regulations formed for the school health and nutrition supervisors, allowing massive favouritism in hiring. “They were recruited on the basis of recommendations from the legislators of the ruling party,” said the official.
He said that the Punjab government had asked the Health Department and district governments to take over the PHSRP once the employment contracts of the nutrition supervisors end, but both were reluctant to comply.
The Health Department on January 14, 2011, wrote a letter to all DCOs of the province granting them the power to extend the supervisors’ contracts. Dozens of health and nutrition supervisors whose contracts have expired approached the Health Department seeking extensions, but they were told to take their pleas to the DCO concerned. The supervisors said that they had been told by the DCOs that they did not have the money to give them new contracts.
Nasir Hussain, a school health and nutrition supervisor in DG Khan, has been refused an extension by the DCO concerned and by the Health Department. “I served three years in the school assigned to me and I did my job well. I don’t understand the policy for extending contracts, or whether they are allowing this at all,” he said.
The section officer at the Health Department who deals with school health and nutrition supervisors said that they could not be made permanent employees because of a lack of regulations in this regard.
PHSRP Project Director Farasat Iqbal was not available for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2011.