After a report on a proposed foreign tour by government officials for 'khichuri training' caused a public outcry, state minister for Primary and Mass Education Zakir Hossain said he thinks it is necessary.
Training in distributing khichuri for meals and learning overall meal management is necessary, he said.
Emergency training is required from abroad for mid-day meal management, Zakir told a press briefing at the Secretariat on Wednesday.
Describing journalists who reported this as BNP-Jamaat members, he said they were tarnishing the government's image.
"Do not mind please. Some people who have no knowledge came to journalism and they write anything. They never think about the government's image," he added.
On Sunday, The Business Standard reported that the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) had sought approval to send 1,000 government officials abroad for 'khichuri training' under the primary school feeding programme.
The story was later picked up by a number of online news portals and social media users criticised the move by the ministry.
In the past, many such foreign tours by government officials with public money hit the headlines on different occasions. The prime minister has repeatedly asked public officials to avoid travelling abroad unnecessarily.
The tour will be arranged for officials to see how schools in different countries buy ingredients from markets, cook khichuri, and distribute it among schoolchildren, according to sources at the DPE and the Planning Commission.
Officials from the DPE, the primary and mass education ministry, the Planning Commission, and the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division will get the opportunity to travel abroad in five years.
Zakir said he thinks the report on government officials going abroad for khichuri training has tarnished the image of both the primary and mass education ministry and the government.
"Biscuits are being distributed among school students. We have thought about providing meals in schools. That is why we proposed a project worth Tk19,282 crore. We are also running a pilot programme in 16 upazilas now," he said.
"I went to India with the World Food Programme fund. We thought about the system before launching the pilot programme. I went to Kerala also to see the system," said Zakir.
"Kerala started providing school meals since 1942. I went there to gather experience. I saw how they run the programme," he said.
"We allocated some money for learning the system, not cooking khichuri. The Planning Commission will oversee the matter. It is not a matter for trolling," the state minister remarked.
"You journalists did not get suggestions from senior journalists before starting in this profession. Did you get recommendations on how to collect news?" he said.
"I have seen in my locality that BNP-Jamaat members have entered journalism, and they make false and fabricated news. You journalists should keep them under surveillance and make sure that they do not publish anything that tarnishes the government's image," added Zakir.
Senior secretary to the primary and mass education ministry Md Akram-al-Hossain said, "We proposed that we want to send an official from 509 upazilas each abroad for the training."
"The officials have experience of distributing biscuits, but they have no knowledge of how to distribute hot meals. That is why we have decided to send some officials abroad."
The DPE had initially sought Tk5 crore for the foreign tour while it demanded Tk10 crore for training at home under the proposed school feeding programme.
The programme implementation cost has been estimated at Tk19,283 crore. In the next five years, khichuri and nutritious biscuits will be distributed to around 1.48 crore school students in 509 upazilas.