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Classroom hunger in India: A Matter of Concern in Primary Education

According to the India State Hunger Index (ISHI), India is the world’s largest food insecure population, with more than 500 million people having to face hunger in India, according to the India State Hunger Index (ISHI). Many children do not get enough to eat, which has far-reaching implications for the country’s performance as a whole. The rates of child malnutrition are higher than in most countries. As per the Global Hunger Index, India ranked at 65 out of 84 countries. More than 200 million face classroom hunger in India, more than any other country in the world. Today, children are getting benefits from the implementation of this mid-day meal scheme. However, improvement is going on.

Our country’s children have inherited this zeal for knowledge and learning and are passionate about it. However, it is unfortunate then that financial constraints seep into their lives and keep them away from furthering the learning and education. Those children have every right to dream big and have their dreams realized. The Government of India’s Mid-Day Meal Scheme is an initiative towards this cause. NGOs like Hindrise Foundation help implement the mid-day meal scheme and help take it further across the country.

What exactly means Classroom Hunger in India?

The data released by the UNICEF and Global Health Database that around 33 % of Indian children are malnourished in the country. India currently has more malnourished children, and half of them die because of malnutrition. The government has started the concept of the mid-day meal to meet classroom hunger in India.

The issue of classroom hunger in India tries to meet out with a mid-day meal scheme, which adequately served to correlate both the variables in a single component, of course. The main reason for classroom hunger in India is poverty and Inequality.

Poverty is defined as an opposing pole to freedom, and freedom is linked to creativity in work. Creativity in work is considered the exercise of a human capability, specifically the capability to do skilled labor. Poverty results, then, either when this capability does not develop or when the opportunity to exercise it is unavailable. 

Economic inequality also increased within states, especially within urban areas, and between urban and rural areas. All-India Education Survey attempted to unravel the dimensions of deprivation of education to the poor in India. The most troubling feature of the Indian education system is the utter lack of equity in access to education over different economic classes.

Upgrading the Quality of Human Life

Basic education, good health, and other human attainments are not only directly valuable as constituent elements. These capabilities can also help generate the economic success of a more standard kind, which can contribute to intensifying the quality of human life even more. Hence, the poor sections will obviously fall only into the government system. This ‘school’ reality will only make a weak ‘civil society’ initiative to the government school pupils’ capability improvement. Thus this vicious cycle will reproduce the status quo of reality where the lower the caste, the lower the economic status, by their lower capability. 

For instance, if they are born into non-affluent families, they will become naturally devoid of enhancing their ‘capabilities,’ making them work. The pervasive effect of child labor is well known in India. It links with the related other social evils like early marriage to reconfirm the vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy to roll. Hence the nutritional provisions for the pupils are being tried by the capability approach. It defined poverty as material or wealth insufficiency by calculating based on the income criteria.

Mid Day Meal Scheme to Meet the Classroom Hunger in India

The capability of nurturing, especially at the initial years’ children, decides their future social positioning. Hence education and health need to be taken care of. Here comes the role of the Mid-day meals scheme. 

The Mid-Day Meal initiative could have a major impact on child nutrition, school attendance, and social equity. However, they felt that the quality issues need urgent attention if mid-day meal programs are to realize their full potential. The nutritious mid-day meals would be a significant step towards the realization of the right to food. However, there is the need to re-examine the scheme’s original rationale, namely, getting children to school and retaining them.

 In the last two decades of the scheme’s existence, the educational profiles, and the nature of problems at the ground level has changed significantly. On the other hand, the scheme has not been able to bring all children to school. If the midday meal retains its effectiveness and relevance, it may have to be modified in light of some modern changes.

Therefore, through the parents’ awareness creation programs concerning the Mid-day Meal, the poor pupils should get informed of the life transformative scheme and upgrade their life in a positive way. Only the ignorance of the consumers will be eliminated to concentrate on the process of capability creation and enhancement.

Mid Day Meal Scheme for classroom hunger

How is this Scheme Helpful for Children?

This program is also a ‘social marketing’ strategy of the State to reassure its ‘public commitments’; the emerging issues are giving a different turn. For instance, a common understanding of India’s reality will conclude that the higher the caste, the higher the economic position. This shall be adequately seen in their enrolments into the private schools, which reportedly provide a superior quality of education than the government. 

Though the governments can complain of various reasons, the state as dominant development determinant has to take care of the other two components, the community and market in the ‘developmental triad.’ Then the only State can play a leading role in facilitating the present-day growth to align with human development sustainably. Otherwise, every component will pass the buck on each other to shift the responsibilities under the Structural Adjustment Programme. 

The private education providers in this context have to be seen. Since their service provisions are only for-profit motive, one can see the complete absence of meals’ provisions and feeding programs. Since the private education consumers are mostly from affluent families, the roles for private in this scheme have been completely absent. The recent Court judgment to reserve some percentage of seats to the poor sections should adequately be supplemented by Mid-day Meal in the private education providers to whom the State gives an enormous amount of subsidies.

As the decisions are primarily taken at the central level, two main problems occur. One is price homogenization. There cannot be a common price (for instance, the ingredients of the meals) all over the country. The local markets and economies determine everything. The second is centralization itself, a problematic one to discuss as decentralizing is paradoxically a centralized one. Besides, most Headmasters who are in charge of the expenditure records this writer observed, conniving with the regulatory bodies like the Panchayats to make money out of the school feeding program.

The National Program of Mid Day Meal

  • The Government of India began the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education.
  • The scheme was universalized across all country blocks, covering children from 1st standard to 5th standard. The scheme was later extended to upper primary classes of 6th standard to 8th standard. The name was changed from ‘National Programme for Nutritional Support to Primary Education’ to ‘National Programme of Mid Day Meal in Schools.’
  • The Government of India provides funds for implementing the scheme with a 60:40 sharing pattern between the Centre and State Governments. However, the cost of food grains, transportation, and the Monitoring, Management, and Evaluation (MME) component is fully borne by the Government of India. 
  • India’s government has fixed the nutritional norm for primary children as 450 kcal and 12 gms of protein and upper primary as 700 kcal and 20 gms of protein.  
  • India’s government provides rice at the rate of 3,000 per Metric tonne to children from 1st standard to 8th standard. In addition, a sum of `750 per Metric tonne is provided as transportation cost.
  • India’s government provides cooking costs (excluding the labor and administrative charges) Rs 4 for primary and Rs 6 for upper primary children. 
  • However, the State Government provides more than the mandatory share of 40% so as to provide nutritious food to children.

Role of Hindrise in Helping the Government to Meet Classroom Hunger in India

  • Improving children’s nutritional status in classes’ I-V in Government, Local Body and Government aided schools, EGS, and AIE centres.
  • To Encourage the children belonging to disadvantaged sections to attend the school more regularly and help them concentrate on classroom activities
  • Furnishing nutritional support to the children of the primary stage in drought-affected areas during summer vacation
  • Nearly 120 million (12 crores) children are so far covered under the scheme, making this school lunch program the largest globally. The Government’s multi-faceted has approached, therefore, shown tremendous results.
  • By leveraging organizations’ unique resources, such as to act as it’s implementing arm and making the provisions for them to be as self-capable as possible. The government has been successfully engrossed in the overall society in supporting the children of our nation. These foundations encourage community participation through fundraising and volunteering.
  • It has encouraged private-public partnerships that have been instrumental in ensuring the success of the program. With the aid of NGOs, the Government has managed to scale the scheme to massive proportions.
  • The scheme has impacted children in many positive ways. Attendance has been increased, classroom hunger has reduced, malnutrition decreased, and socialization among children of all castes improved.
  • To implement the program effectively, therefore, it must be well equipped to handle the logistics of the program. Hindrise is having ‘financial and logistic capacity to supply the mid-day meal on the requisite scale.’

 Conclusion

A healthy and nutritious school lunch a day provides parents the incentive to send the children to school. This Mid Day Meal Programme has resulted in the rise in school attendance and enrolment, better concentration among students, and also the blurring of socioeconomic boundaries, as children sit together to eat their fill. The dual-pronged strategy to address concerns regarding classroom hunger in India and education has led to numerous success stories.

The dream for an equal world is worth our best efforts. With the banishment of hunger and the blessing of a good education, we will take a giant leap towards it. All that is required an army of noble hearts marching for the cause and taking it to fruition. The movement is for providing unlimited food for education, and all of us associated with it, at Hindrise, we need to keep this flame of education burning in young minds with wholesome meals.