Food, Glorious food glorious food
This inspiring rendition of hunger among kids in growing economies comes from the popular musical, Oliver Twist. The musical captures the tragocomical element of hunger among the children in the industrial era England. Increased industrial production has always thrust the younger lot into the labour market, mostly to bring in the three square meals a day. Even though we have the right to education law since 2005 in India, for many socio-economic and cultural reasons, like child marriage, distress migration and pressure to add to the household income, the children have had to drop out of schools. In many cases, poor quality of education in government schools is itself responsible for students feeling disinterested.
Therefore, the supply of food to school children is a very central feature of retaining them within the education system. In a country like India, where demands for cheap labour push more and more kids into the labour market, a strong meal plan for schools is an important building block for a stronger education system. Karnataka has hit the right flavor notes, with its wholesome and nutritious meal plan in the welfare programmes Ksheera bhagya and Mid Day meal. According to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) officials, the number of out-of-school children has come down in Karnataka to 90,000 in 2016 from 7,00,000 in 2001. The number of dropouts in 2015-16 was 12,878.
The Times of India has reported an increase of over 6,000 children in schools for the year 2015-16 as compared to 2013-14. “Students have stuck to government schools because of schemes like midday meal, Ksheera Bhagya, free textbooks, as also academic performance and efforts of the faculty,” said Bella Shetty, joint director, Directorate of Public Instruction. “The number of students has gradually increased as quality of education has improved. Thanks to the midday meal programme, students can focus more on studies,” said Bhadraiah, principal, GHPS, Hunsamaranahalli.
As the images of rejoicing kids for a “happy wala India” are doing the rounds this IPL season, we could put ourselves to the task of a healthy-wala and a hunger-free wala India, to begin with. And Karnataka seems to be leading the way with urging the kids, to drop in!