Quality mid-day meal at Araria school increases attendance of Dalit students
In a state where poor quality of mid-day meal (MDM) makes news, a remotely located primary school in Araria, about 350 km from the capital, is hogging limelight for the quality of meal served to its students belonging to Dalit community and raising their attendance.
Primary school, Chhurchhuria, under Forbesganj block in Araria, in a remote locality dominated by Musahars, is setting example for the way the mid-day meal is cooked and served. Besides, through education and cleanliness, it is also setting standards for bringing changes in the community of rat eaters.
Thanks to initiative of in-charge headmaster Ranjesh Kumar and assistant teacher Farat Bano, seven years back the school that was encroached upon by anti-social elements, has undergone a sea change. The walls have been painted colourfully carrying beautiful pictures and now the children sit on cotton rug instead of sacks, which earlier they used to bring from their homes.
“The money that government provides for mid-day meal is more than enough to serve the quality food. I strictly stick to the menu prescribed by the government and maintain hygiene when the food is prepared by three cooks,” said Ranjesh.
District programme officer (DPO), Araria, Chandra Prakash lauded the initiative of the school. “The initiative taken by Ranjesh is setting example and government schools in the vicinity have started following him. The school in a remote locality is strictly following the menu given by the government. Either a seasonal fruit or egg, that is defined in the menu, is regularly served to the students on every Friday. The attendance in the school has increased,” he said.
Ranjesh said, “When I joined in 2012, the condition of school was very bad. The MDM was in a poor condition and there was just one building. It took about two years for me to understand the thinking of Musahars. The local people used to demand money from me every month for their food and liquor expense,” said the incharge headmaster.
However, Ranjesh did not budge and slowly he started bringing changes in the school. “I trained the cook after I received training of master trainer for mid-day meal project. Initially the food was prepared under my supervision. As soon as the quality of food improved, the school with 218 students, started recording presence of about 170 students. I made it a point to get the food served in clean plates. I also take food with the children,” he said. The school does not record full attendance because some students get engaged in farming activities to earn money due to poverty in their families.
Block resource person, Araria, Ganesh Lal Rajak, who has been inspecting the schools for about two years, said the two teachers were devoted towards their work. “They are not doing the work for publicity. The food served in MDM is of good quality and they have given facelift to the school building also raising the daily attendance of the students,” said Rajak.
Block development officer, Forbesganj, VK Chandra, said he would be visiting the school in a day or two, as he had got excellent feedback of good quality mid-day meal and education imparted at the school at Chhurchhuria.
Ranjesh said the school also served ‘pulao’ garnished with dry fruits, but the students, who mostly have Rishideo title, did not eat it saying the food had ‘pilu’ (insect).
“The money allotted for mid-day meal is for children and it is unfair to take share from it. I get satisfaction when they have good food,” he said.