Mid day meal scheme fails post covid

Post covid-19 pandemic, students are not coming to schools and mid day meal scheme seems to be failing to complete its aim.

By Pratibha Rathi

There are around 116 million children, who are covered and claimed to be benefited under the Mid day meal scheme. And more than half of the students are not coming to schools after covid-19 pandemic.

Mid-day meals was the main factor for students to come to school seems to be failing post pandemic. This was due to the fact that there was a lock down and many students failed to go to school.

“The number of students in government schools has decreased to half and in some places less than half,” said a teacher, Corporation Primary School, Adyar. “There can be various reasons for the absence of students. Some may have moved to their hometown during the pandemic, some may have stopped studying and may be helping their family to earn,” he added.

student standing for food
Picture Credit: Scroll.in

There are hardly 5 students in the school. Some in uniform and some in casuals. Some are in chappals and some are in torn shoes. There are hardly more than 3 teachers, sitting in a room and the students are playing outside. Instead of the mid day meal, they are getting some snacks, which is rancid and of poor quality.

However, as per the mid day meal Under the programme, every student at the primary school level is given a meal that comprises 100 grams of food grains, 20 grams of pulses and 50 grams of vegetables to provide 450 calories and 12 gram of protein.

At the upper primary level, the students should be given 150 grams of food grains, 30 grams of pulses and 75 grams of vegetables to provide 700 calories and 20 grams of protein. This proportion will meet at least one-third of the daily nutritional requirement.

Pandemic created a link between mid day meal and child labour

Another government school in Adyar mentioned that the students, who come to school also work part time in some small shops. They sometimes miss school to work.

While in conversation with one of the food distributor it became evident that the benefit of the scheme failed to reach the students, due to covid-19. He is the food distributor for last 10 years.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, a survey was conducted under the Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS), revealing that total consumption by the states and Union territories, under the mid day meal scheme, for the months of April and May, 2020 was 221,310 tonnes. However, in 2019, it was 60,620 tonnes more than April and May, 2020.

In terms of the food and nutrition security situation, India has dipped to 101 rank among 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index for 2021 and 71 in Global Food security Index among 113 countries.

Factors affecting Global Hunger Index
% of factors affecting India’s Global food security index

As per the real-time Poshan Tracker data there are 7.79 crore children of age group 6 months to 6 years are registered as the beneficiaries of the mid day meals on Anganwadi platform.

Chlid helpline 1098, which is available across India, 24*7, did not picked up the call, despite of several attempts.

Kailash Satyarthi, Indian social worker, who campaign against child labour, showed his concern over the twitter and asked India to work as a team in the pandemic to save millions of children from child labour.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has also showed the concern over the school being closed for months and it can become a factor for increase in child labour post covid.

As a result of pandemic, addition of 9 million children are at the risk of being pushed into child labour states another report by the ILO and UNICEF.

In India, the main factors pushing children into poverty and child labour are the closure of schools and the economic crisis faced by the families, because of the pandemic.