Mid-day Meals: Nourishing the Future of India

In the sunny village of Guntur, was a decent primary school to educate children. Among 25 girls and 43 boys at this school in Andhra Pradesh, Asha was a bright student. She could do the math. She knew her alphabets well too. Often she would outdo the boys in her class during exams—to be an educated girl and to change the world was her dream. But the school in her village supported no secondary education. As soon as she cleared grade 5 with excellent scores, she was delighted yet disheartened. To study further, she would have to travel far to another village.

But could Asha’s parents send their little one so far? It was not the mere risk of sending a girl child alone to another village. Their worries were shaped more by that of the community’s notions. Asha’s parents belonged to the humble sections of the village. Despite toiling hard, the family could only afford one meal every day. Even when Asha wanted to study further, her parents could not send her so far. Nor could they leave their daughter alone in their thatched roof house. Though, Asha’s father did not want her to accompany them to the fields, in the hope of meeting their basic needs, it seemed best to take her to work.

Asha was disappointed to leave the school but the desire to seek education never left her. Like her, there are many children who are not able to continue with their studies, not only in this village, but in the entire state of Andhra Pradesh. The dropout rate has been a more serious problem for girls. More than that, literacy too has been a growing concern. Literacy is truly important for a person to realize the importance of fundamental rights. Unless a citizen is educated, neither can s/he know the rights that can be enjoyed nor can s/he encourage others to pursue education.

Education becomes all the more important to teach every citizen not to violate the rights of others. Education, more importantly, becomes a basic requirement for a child’s development. The Right to Education is a fundamental human right. That is why to attain complete human development, every child should be given this opportunity. Sadly, Asha’s parents too were denied the opportunity to study in their childhood. For them, education came to play a little role in the upbringing of their daughter.

Along with poverty and hunger, child development comes as a challenge when the prosperity of the nation is considered. Being a border district, Andhra Pradesh has had less number of schools but an increasing number of undernourished and uneducated inhabitants. For secondary education in schools, in particular, children are expected to walk miles. This is another reason why dropout rates have been high in this state. Along with Andhra Pradesh, Telangana too is a border district. Both the states face the most problems when it comes to educating the children.

Truly, lack of higher secondary schools in villages is the reason why some parents don’t allow girl children to study further or walk far for education. But this reason is not enough. Many schools in Andhra Pradesh lack even the basic facilities which are the reasons behind many children, especially girls, become dropouts. Absence of toilets have been a major inconvenience as well as a cause for open defecation and declining health. The unlikely conditions of schools and unavailability of facilities have paved way for child marriages as well. Fortunately, Asha was always guided by her desire to study. It was only her desire that saved her from such traditional practices.

A common observation tells that boys study more than girls in this state. What is more shocking is that people hailing from uneducated backgrounds believe that educating girls might spoil them, another prevalent belief among such groups being that getting girls married is their duty. That is why higher studies will serve no benefit to them. Asha’s parents too followed the village’s tradition, as a result, her education came to a halt. Perhaps, her parents still believed that marriage was the ultimate cure of her life. But Asha stood strong and things slowly got better.

Gradually, there came a change and the quality of education slowly began to improve with the government’s school lunch programs. Alas! Her parents’ beliefs could not cease Asha’s determination and hopes to study beyond. With the introduction of mid-day meals, her hopes were renewed. Against all odds and logics, Asha struggled to win the support of her parents for study. Slowly, she regained her health and received proper nutrition. The miracle transpired when she prospered to become a teacher. Thus, she set up an exemplary example for the believers. And for the girls of the village, she became the ideal.

Mid-day meals drew Asha to school and further fostered her aspirations for education. Earlier, not only in Andhra Pradesh, but across many states in India, children went home to eat during the lunch break. At often times, they did not return. However, those who had no food to eat chose to quit school. While lack of basic facilities is steadily being overcome, every child needs the nutrition and energy to learn throughout the day. To conquer such tough situations, we have initiated mid-day meal programs in Andhra Pradesh in the hope to bring more aspiring children to school. With adequate nourishment and the needed nutrition, we dream to create the future of India successfully.