13 per cent of schools in the State do not provide mid-day meal, with 10 per cent of the schools functioning without kitchens

Even after four years of enacting the Right to Education Act, 13 per cent of schools in Uttar Pradesh do not provide mid-day meal, with 10 per cent of the schools in the State functioning without kitchens. Moreover, 11 per cent do not have access to safe drinking water.

This was revealed by the 2012-13 RTE stocktaking status report released in Lucknow on Thursday by the State Collective for Right to Education (SCORE), a coalition of civil society organisations, networks, educationists, journalists, lawyers and teachers.

“How can RTE be functional without proper and nutritious food for the children,” asked Ambrish Rai, the RTE-Forum convener. “We will propose a high-level committee with the Ministry of Human Resource Development, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, academicians, educationists and activists to bring mid-day meals under the Centre,” Mr. Rai told The Hindu . The mid-may meals, he added, cannot be left under the mercy of the States and private bodies, and there should be a proper mechanism to produce and distribute the meals.

Mr. Rai contended that forming School Management Committees (SMCs) could help improve the quality of meals. Referring to the tragedy in Bihar, Mr. Rai said that Bihar was yet to form SMCs, and while they had been set up in UP, they were “non-functional.”

The SCORE report pointed out that almost half of the schools in U.P. did not follow RTE norms during formation of SMCs and only 19 per cent of the committees were trained on RTE norms. Member of the State advisory council on RTE Sehba Husain said the government should engage civil society in monitoring schools and empowering SMCs.

The State has also not formed the ‘State Commission for Protection of Child Rights’, a mandatory statutory body every State should have, according to the RTE Act, to safeguard rights of children and monitor the Act’s implementation.

The status report by SCORE — which conducted a survey on the indicators of RTE Act provisions in fifteen districts of U.P., covering 645 government, aided and unaided private schools — also highlighted infrastructural shortcomings.