Several school-going students and parents might need a lesson or two on the need for having a good breakfast, say teachers and doctors.

A bunch of children fainting during the morning assembly or complaining of severe stomach ache in class is becoming common, school heads point out.

Margarette Davidraj, Principal of Bhaktavatsalam Vidyashram in Korattur, says many children, particularly those in the primary sections, tend to skip breakfast. “Some of them, who live a little away from school, start from their house very early in the morning. Parents find it difficult to make them eat breakfast at that time,” she says.

Some children do not clean their bowels in the morning, and keep running to the toilets during class hours. Some complain of stomach pain. Others have their lunch during the short break in the morning, since they feel hungry by then.

“Parents have an important role here. They have to wake their children up early and train them to eat breakfast,” Ms. Davidraj observes.

Children skipping breakfast seems to have other implications.

Parents tend to pack a heavy lunch, as if to make up for the absence of a breakfast, and expect teachers to ensure that their children eat. “Parents tell us to make their children eat the lunch somehow,” she notes.

Meera Gopi, head of the primary section of TI Matriculation School, Ambattur, also thinks there is little that schools alone can do in the matter. Though the school is planning to introduce some initiatives to ensure better health for children, parents have to cooperate, she says.

The school is considering introducing something like a ‘sundal week' or maybe ask children to bring fruits instead of chips.

In addition to these, it is high time families revive the conventional ‘idli, dosa' breakfast habits instead of corn flakes or noodles, say doctors.

According to R. Kulandai Kasthuri, head of the paediatrics department at ESI Hospital, K.K. Nagar, series of lifestyle changes have resulted in such practices that could spoil a child's health in serious ways. Children go to bed late and end up waking up just in time for a bath before they can rush to school. N. Mridula, mother of two, says her daughters sleep only by 12. “They watch TV, play computer games and refuse to sleep. In the morning, they invariably go to school on an empty stomach,” she says.

Doctors also say there is a need for better awareness among parents.

“Parents bring their children to us and then say a glass of milk is sufficient for their child. It is not. Children need a breakfast rich in carbohydrates, proteins and fat. It is the most important meal of the day,” she says.

Children complaining of stomach pain often have poor toilet habits. “It is important that children be taught to follow a healthy morning routine. Otherwise, many children who want to use the toilet in school also don't, as the toilets are not clean, which is also very unhealthy,” says Dr. Kasthuri, who previously served as head of the Institute of Child Health.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012

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