Plea to CM to provide mid-day meal during school closure

The Pondicherry Science Forum (PSF) has urged Chief Minister N. Rangasamy to sustain the mid-day meal programme for children during the period where schools remain shut due to the third wave of COVID-19.

In a memorandum, Maran. C, PSF executive member, said closing the schools would result in nutritional loss apart from affecting learning. In government institutions, a large number of students are from poor socio-economic background and they solely rely on the mid-day meal programme as a key source of their daily nutrition.

Missing out on meals due to extended closure of schools has already created a jeopardising condition during the pandemic’s second wave, driving many children away from education to becoming child labourers, the PSF said.

"The condition of adolescent girls is even worse, since they lose their iron supplements, which they cannot afford from their families, but only from the schools," the memorandum said.

Highlighting that during the previous closure of schools, the government had made arrangements to distribute 'take home rations' in the place of mid-day meals, the PSF said this was a poor substitute for freshly cooked nutritional meals.

‘Continue noon-meals’

In this situation, the PSF urged the government to continue the mid-day meal programme by providing freshly cooked meals to the students through schools and anganwadi centres during closures. This can be an incentive for the most vulnerable children, preventing nutritional loss in and dropout among them, the PSF said.

Digital divide

About the adverse impact on learning, the PSF said as per data from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), India, only 24% of Indian households have internet facilities to access remote learning.

In Puducherry, there is a digital divide prevailing among government and private school students. The low income families are unable to provide internet at home, resources/devices and parental support for online learning, thus leading to an uncertainty.

The PSF urged the government to devise a policy for an inclusive online learning programme and recommended launching an educational broadcasting television channel through which many children will be covered by distance learning, when schools are closed.

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Printable version | May 18, 2022 11:02:12 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/plea-to-cm-to-provide-mid-day-meal-during-school-closure/article38320803.ece