For some time, our mostly reliable maid was consistently late.
Why? Her daughter wasn’t well so wasn’t going to school.
However there is more to the story of her daughter’s mysterious fevers, broken arm and absence from school. This sweet young girl fears going to school…
- She was beaten for having her braid done differently and sent outside for 30 minutes to re-do it
- Each beating by the teacher would lead to any excuse to avoid going to class – so our maid’s meagre funds would go to chasing phantom fevers, frantic to find why her daughter kept falling ill and having accidents
- Until the story came out, in tears, her daughter confessed she is petrified of being abused by her teacher
A few months ago the programme of providing simple ‘nashta‘ (snacks) at the school stopped
- Many kids would go to school at 8:30am with empty stomachs
- The mid-day meal was their ticket to health - enabling their capacity to learn
- Without it, children go hungry until 4pm when released for the day… if there is decent food at home
What was the impact?
- Already burdened with 50+ kids in each class, without the mid-day meal, concentration lapsed
- The teacher, already prone to abusing the students into silence, lashed out with increasing ferocity
- Mostly the underprivileged girls who wouldn’t fight back bore the brunt – fist smashing down on an ear so severe to tear an earing, painful tugging of braids, whacks on the back and more
- Complaints from parents started pouring in – the teacher started being absent too!
Can anything be done? For the immediate situation, certainly!
- The matter was taken up with the ‘big’ teacher then principle
- The abusive teacher was fired but that doesn’t fix what caused halting the mid-day meal program
Apparently since the mid day meal scheme was introduced, it has been riddled with controversy and challenges in implementation. This school’s mid day meal was funded through an NGO and technically doesn’t qualify for the government program. So when the NGO ran into difficulty, the meals stopped.
The big picture is child hunger persists in India. A frightening 42.5% of children under 5 are underweight. And India State Hunger Index (ISHI) report has stated the country’s poor performance is driven by its high levels of child under-nutrition and poor calorie count.
India remains a country of contradictions. Incredible intelligence and crippling waste of potential talent with a faltering education system. No easy answers and despite some valiant efforts, situations like this put into perspective how far we still need to go.
- India’s Mid-Day Meal Scheme
- Two organisations doing something about this: World Food Programme & Akshaya Patra
- Mute – screaming silently
- Kicking corruption – Screening of “Jai Bhim Comrade”