Dr. Asangba Tzudir
In 2001, the Supreme Court passed an order stating “A basic entitlement of every child in every Government and Government assisted Primary Schools with a prepared Mid-day Meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8–12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days.” The mid-day meal scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act 2013 which is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nationwide.
The roots of the programme can be traced back to the Pre-Independence era, when a Mid day meal programme was introduced in 1925 in Madras Corporation by the British administration. The Government of India initiated the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) on 15th August 1995.
The objective of the programme is to improve the effectiveness of primary education by improving the nutritional status of children thereby reducing malnutrition. It also aims to attract children thereby increasing attendance, reducing dropout rates and also promote literacy.
Recently, in a welcoming move, the Department of School Education (DoSE), Nagaland has introduced an innovative way in the distribution of mid day meal ration and cooking cost to all Govt. schools within the state. This was informed by the Principal Director of School Education. In this move, the department has planned to issue posters displaying details of food grains and cooking costs distributed to each school covered under the mid day meals scheme for each quarter. And the head of institutions of all govt. schools have been directed to display these posters prominently within the school campus throughout the quarter.
With the existence of ‘anomalies’ and challenges in the distribution ‘system’ of mid day meals, the posters will also display help line number (6009256788) to enable right thinking citizens to send complaints through SMS/WatsApp if they come across any misuse of the scheme. To this end, the citizens have a responsibility to play a dual role of helping the government help the school children better, so also ensure better delivery of mid day meals for the students in the schools.
The displaying of the posters also respects the ‘right of the public to know and be informed,’ and more so on issues relating to welfare and one that concerns quality education and life it needs to reach the eyes and ears of the public.
Throwing intent and purpose the department has cautioned the principals/Headmaster/ head teacher in charge of taking necessary action against those schools found not displaying the posters.
Some years back, there was an issue related to worm infested rice bags meant for serving mid day meals in a certain school. Analogically, the present transparency move by the department of displaying posters is very timely and it is hoped that this will be the beginning of digging out ‘worms’ (if any) from the mid day meal scheme.
Further, it will also be good if the posters also include the various other essential items that comes for free under the Samaghra Shiksha Abhiyan Scheme for the school and particularly for students, so that whatever things are given is not lost in transit.
(Dr. Asangba Tzudir contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org)