Else where

Else where

Lighting up lives with meals
As the clock chimes 11 am, Neetu Yadav, 10, and her classmates’ eyes turn expectantly from the blackboard to the school gates.

As the roar of the autorickshaw carrying their mid day meal grows louder, the 35 students at the government-run Rajkya Prathmik Vidyalaya, Ghanchiyon ki Gufa, Saraswati Nagar, Jodhpur erupt into a loud cheer.

The city prides itself on its educational institutions and the average literacy here is 81.56 per cent – with female literacy registering 73.93 per cent. Impressive figures, given that average literacy rate in the state is 67 per cent.

That’s the reason an initiative like the Mid Day Meal Scheme assumes so much importance here. No one can put it better than little Neetu. “The meal is certainly an incentive for me to come to school,” she says with a beaming smile. A Class V student, she particularly loves the ‘khichadi’ on the menu. Her parents, who were once farmers in Bihar, migrated to the city in search of work. Her father is employed in a steel factory and her mother does odd stitching jobs to supplement the meagre family income.

At Rajkya Prathmik Vidyalaya, Saraswati Nagar, 54 students are enrolled, but an average of 35 students attends each day. Principal Beena Tiwari determines the amount of food required for the mid day meal on the basis of the previous day’s attendance and she tastes the meal before serving it to the children.

In the adjoining Rajkya Prathmik Vidyalaya, Madhuban Housing Board, children sit in rows on the cemented platform at the school’s entrance, as teacher, Mooli Tolani, is helped by some older students in carrying the food containers and serving the meal. In fact, at 11 am, this is a sight replicated across the 467 schools in Jodhpur located within a 26-kilometre radius, which are provided food directly from a centralised kitchen.

Other schools have their own kitchen, utensils and cook, depending on the number of enrolments. According to official records, a total of 353,661 students in the 4,052 government schools in Jodhpur district have benefited from the Mid Day Meal Scheme in December 2011.

The Mid Day Meal Scheme has brought several benefits in its wake. Anita Rohatgi, Principal, Rajkya Prathmik Vidyalaya, Madhuban Housing Board, makes an interesting observation, “Our students have learnt to eat with a spoon and respect food.” Watching the children carefully wash their hands and steel plates using mugs from water stored in buckets — in the absence of tap water in the school — qualifies her statement.

She recalls a time, before this scheme was introduced, when children were less active and often fell ill. “The scheme is helping to supplement nutrients in the daily diet of our children. One balanced meal every day has reduced deficiencies of vital nutrients like vitamins and calcium, making them less susceptible to diseases,” says Rohatgi.  

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