Salman , the four-year-old seated on a woven cloth mat along with his 30 other classmates, eagerly waits for his teacher’s approval to begin the lunch. It’s only when all the children have washed their hands and are seated comfortably, the teacher gives her approval to begin the prayer thanking almighty for the goodness of the day. This prayer for Salman means more, it means he can have his tasty hot dal with rotis. He gobbles up the roti and asks for his second in a few minutes and then his third.
Nazia Tazeem, who is the school in-charge at the Rehmani Model Senior Secondary School, run in a mosque at the heart of the Jaipur city, says,”It is only from the last three years that our children are receiving the mid-day meal. Most of the parents are artisans, shoe makers and daily wage labourers, hence the health of the children was a major concern. Today the mid-day meal in the school has a positive impact on the children’s health and has also brought about the much required change.” She later explains that most parents send children to the school primarily because they know that their children will get at least one nutritious meal enough to keep their hunger away till dinner time. The children studying the secondary school help their parents in their respective vocations after they head back from the school, and the mid-day meal plays all the more important roles in their lives.
The mid-day meal has been able to encourage parents to send even their girls children to school. The report cards and the school report show that mostly girls are among the toppers in their class. The mid-day meal has helped the school in increasing attendance and enrollment among girls. The Director says,”The mid-day meal has brought about a tremendous change in the drop out rate – it is less than 1%. In the primary school the increase in attendance is nearly as high as 70%-80%.” The numerous awards that now decorate the school office are a testimony to the children’s growth story.
The school which started with just 50 students has now scaled up to 1500 students. Good attendance is a boost to school which has made it also better in the quality of education that is now delivered - Montessori education for the pre-school and computer education for the primary and secondary school… shares the director.
The significance of nutritious meal highlighted by The Akshaya Patra Foundation has translated into the school authorities educating the parents on nutrition. But because they do not have the required financial resources, it’s seldom that they can meet the demands. It’s that time they truly are thankful for the mid-day meal that the children get in school that the Akshaya Patra feeds over 6,000 children in 30 madrassas in the city.