close

School Note

School Note

School Days Are Here Again!

back-to-school

Crisp school uniforms, new compass boxes, polished shoes and packed school bags – it is time to welcome these sights again, as rain-soaked days herald the start of a brand new school year. After the lulls of the summer vacations, going back to school is a bittersweet experience indeed. No longer is it possible to sleep late into the morning or play and watch one’s favourite television programmes all day. It is now back to the old familiar – school friends, classes, homework and the discipline of following a schedule throughout the day.

NGO for ChildrenThe reopening of schools also brings with it the most delightful hour in the bustle of school life – the lunch break. This is the most anticipated time of the day, as growling stomachs need to be silenced with a healthy, wholesome meal. Good nutrition is imperative to the physical, mental and emotional development of children. After all, who, be it adult or child, can think straight with hunger clawing at their gut?

In a country like India where hunger and malnutrition cripples the educational performance of children and even leads them to desist from the pursuit of education, it is imperative that an incentive like a free school lunch be implemented. Education is the magic spell that needs to be cast for empowering children and this can only be done if, like their privileged counterparts, the socioeconomically underprivileged too have a full stomach.

You can help ensure that children go back to school and stay there by donating for education in India, supporting our school lunch programme. You can also start a virtual fundraising campaign and enlist more pledges toward this cause!

read more
School Note

School chronicles: What it was like meeting beneficiaries in Nagpur

Nagpur Kitchen

Travelling to our beneficiary schools to meet the children we serve is one of the best aspects of the job, for those of us who work at Akshaya Patra. The energy and enthusiasm of our young beneficiaries are infectious and I must admit, a feeling of nostalgia and wistfulness follows after we leave the schools, longing for days past when we too were without a care in the world and had a head full of dreams. Recently, I travelled to Nagpur to meet the Foundation’s beneficiaries and the experience was enriching and eye-opening.

My colleagues and I at the Foundation visit different cities across India to talk to our beneficiaries about their dreams, ambitions, what their school life is like and how they like the food served by the Foundation. This helps us connect with our beneficiaries on a personal level and gives us a chance to offer a slice of their lives to the world – their determination to study well and make a bright future for themselves.

Nagpur has recently come into the Akshaya Patra fold, as our kitchen there was inaugurated just last year, in August 2016. I spent five days in the city, visiting four government schools, where we serve our meals. These were the Deaf and Dumb Industrial Institute in Shankar Nagar locality, Shivangaon Marathi Prathamik Shala (Shivangaon Marathi Primary School) in the Shivangaon village on the outskirts of the city, Nishatai Wankhede Uchcha Prathamik Shala (Nishatai Wankhede Higher Primary School) in Kamla and the Dr Ambedkar Secondary School and Junior College in the Untakhana area.

What struck me most about Nagpur is that children in government schools come from families that are relatively well-off. There is no dearth of employment in the city and the parents are diligent, ensure that their children’s educational journey is as smooth-sailing as possible and take care to make available the resources they need for the same.

The Deaf and Dumb Industrial Institute, the first school I visited, was a unique experience. Quietness envelops the school and the sounds one hears on its campus come either from nature or the pattering of feet. Here, the first student I met was a boy named Prem, who was about 14 years old. He had been found on Nagpur’s railway station, unable to communicate anything because he was deaf and mute. The name Prem was given to him by the policeman who found him. The teachers said that they were teaching him sign language, which was difficult as they had no way of knowing if they were getting through to him. Most of their teaching was done through trial-and-error method, for this reason. He had also been diagnosed to be slightly mentally challenged.

The other students we met in the Deaf and Dumb Industrial Institute were extremely lively, but lacked much ambition, because they had never been encouraged to dream big, due to the perceived limitations of their condition. However, success stories do exist amongst them. One of this school’s former students, Mangesh Wankhede, now works at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the teachers told me. Another is doing his Bachelors in Engineering (BE). They just need a great deal of encouragement and familial support to pursue conventional careers. When my colleagues and I were taking leave of the teachers and the students at this school, they gave us beautiful, colourful, paper flowers handmade by the students.

Photo Collage by Students
Handcrafted paper flowers made by students of the Deaf and Dumb Industrial Institute, Nagpur

At the other schools, most of the students we met wanted to be either policemen/policewomen, doctors or engineers. One student though, wanted to be President of India! However, he had no answer to questions like ‘who is the current President of India?’, ‘who’s the current Prime Minister?’. He probably wanted to impress his classmates, teachers and visitors with a unique answer. We did meet children with unconventional, unique ambitions too – one wanted to be an air force pilot, another a cricketer, yet another an astronomer and one young man, inspired by the hit TV show CID, wanted to become an investigative officer, his inspiration being the character Daya, of “Daya, Darwaza todo!” (“Daya, take down the door!”) fame.

A common observation across these schools, that touched us deeply, was the dedication and love the teachers have towards their students. In two of the schools, teachers pooled in money from their own pockets to make certain amenities available to the children. The children too, had a great deal of respect and affection for them and the bond they shared was beautiful. It was also great to know that all the children unanimously liked the food served by Akshaya Patra and many confessed to preferring it over the food cooked at their homes. The masale bhaat we served there seemed to be a favourite of many of our beneficiaries in the city.

No account of my trip there would be complete without a mention of the wonderful staff – administrative as well as kitchen staff – working for Akshaya Patra Nagpur. The hospitality of people in Nagpur is renowned – they are happiest when feeding people. One of our employees there told me, “If one’s hunger isn’t satisfied in Nagpur, he/she can’t feel full anywhere else.” They take care of each other as diligently as they prepare meals for the children in the city and lunch time is particularly special, as they share their dabbas (tiffins) with each other, with much cheer.

The warmth of teachers and students, along with that of the wonderful people working at Akshaya Patra Nagpur, was truly moving. One can fully understand the power of the Mid-Day Meal Programme when one visits beneficiary schools and experiences the joys of childhood and aspirations of the children, which get much-needed support, all thanks to a nutritious school lunch every day.

read more
Food and EducationSchool Note

Diary of a School Girl

Diary of a School Child

Dear Diary,

Today’s Science class was very interesting. Our teacher taught us about Human Body. Until today, I did not know there were so many bones in our body. 206? That’s a lot. I’m only 12 years but it feels like I’m learning so much already. My school is my only distraction from all the problems at home.

Dear Diary, let me tell you about my life. We are five people in the house. Dad works as a coolie in the railway station and my mother is a housewife. I have an elder brother at home who is now in high school and I have a baby sister who is still in Anganwadi. It’s been two months since I moved to 7th Standard and I enjoy going to school. Exams make me nervous at times. I wake up at 6 am every day to help my mother with kitchen work. We do not have any water supply in our house and so I fetch water from a public tap. Our family needs at least six to seven buckets of water every day—for the kitchen, bath and to drink. In all this rush, I sometimes forget to eat breakfast. In school, our headmaster says ‘Breakfast is the most important meal’ but I feel I do not get the time to eat.

I leave home at 8 am with my best friend Uma. She stays close to my house and I’m happy we are classmates. We talk a lot in class and we laugh a lot. It takes 30 minutes for us to walk to school. We don’t realise the passing time because we talk so much. Once we reach school, we work on pending homework or we play a game. At 9 am, the entire school gathers for Morning Prayer. We sing the National Anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’ every day. We also drink a glass of milk before classes begin.

Our classrooms are not big but we have everything we need. There are eight benches in my classroom and the walls are covered with informative charts. Some of the charts are made by us. We have six different classes every day. My favourite is Kannada—the teacher makes it so much fun. In our Kannada textbook, we have a lesson about farming. To make it more interesting, our teacher took us to the ground and made all of us plant a sapling. We water them every day and look after them like the plants are a part of our family. When we do not have any class, we usually sit quietly and read our textbooks. If anyone talks, our class leader writes the names on the blackboard. I always get caught for talking or laughing but I also focus on studies.

We get free lunch at school. At 11.45 am, Akshaya Patra vehicle delivers the food to our school. At 12 noon, lunch is served to everybody. We all eat together and wash our own plates. We usually get Rice and Sambar for lunch but sometimes, we get Bisi Bele Baath or Puliyogare. On most days, the lunch in school is the only meal I get to eat for the day. In fact, my parents sent me to school only because we get free lunch and the burden on the family is less. I’m happy too because the food we get is hot and contains vegetables. Most of us don’t like vegetables but our teachers make sure we all eat them because it makes us healthy.

Once a month, our teachers check our height to record the progress. I’m still 4 feet. I hope I grow taller this year. Before the last bell, we spend time drawing something or we play a game. One of my classmates draws cartoons and that’s very interesting. I like making rangoli designs. My school ends at 3.30 pm every day. We sing Vande Mataram before we leave the classroom.

Once the school is over, I walk back home with my friend. Like every day, I help my mother with fetching water and making dinner. At 5 pm, I step out to play with my neighbours. We play so many games in the evening. Sometimes, my mother lets me watch television. I like watching Chhota Bheem on Pogo. From 7 to 8 pm, I do my homework. If I finish my homework early, I get to watch more TV. After dinner is made, I help my baby sister eat her dinner and I put her to sleep. I try to sleep on time so that I’m fresh the next day. I’ve also been learning that sleep is very important for our bodies to function on a daily basis. I hope I get to become a Science teacher when I grow up.

This is my first journal entry and I hope I write more.  My school is now my companion and education is my hero. Thanks to the Government and to Akshaya Patra, I’m able to study without any disturbance.

Yours truly,
Lakshmi
(Inspired by true stories)

read more
School Note

Pratima, the Headmistress witnesses the impact of Mid Day Meal on the children of Nayagarh

Pratima-Nanda-HM-talks-on-impact-of-Akshaya-Patra-mid-day-meal
Pratima Nanda, Headmistress Balaram Tripathi Memorial School, Padmabati, Nayagarh has witnessed many a positive impact of mid-day meal on children. She talks about them very enthusiastically.
Pratima Nanda HM talks on impact of Akshaya Patra mid-day meal. Pratima has seen a myriad changes in the past few years. Earlier, when there was no provision of food, some children would carry lunch, some would go home to eat but a majority would just stare helplessly at the colourful lunch boxes. The inequality would often result in belittling fellow classmates which would end up in brawl.

Pratima-Nanda-HM-talks-on-impact-of-Akshaya-Patra-mid-day-meal“An empty stomach makes this kind of pressure unbearable on a daily basis and the focus on education inevitably decreases. However, things have changed since Akshaya Patra’s foray in 2009. The quality and quantity of the food is really good and there is no compromise in the quantity of vegetables either. All of them eat together amicably. Long absentees have reduced greatly and enrolment has gone up considerably.”

Akshaya Patra is providing hot and nutritious food to 1.3 million school children through its mid-day meal programme. The food is cooked hygienically and as per local palette. Teachers say that children love Akshaya Patra food and look forward to come to school. They have seen that it increases attendance and admission to school. At Nayagarh the food is served through model of kitchen where ‘Self Help Group’ of local women is created and trained to cook food in the particular area.
read more
School Note

School Children Meet Our Heroes

Akshaya-Patra-kitchen-employees-visit

We, at The Akshaya Patra Foundation strive towards providing mid-day meal to more than one million school children every day across India. A nutritious meal is prepared in our kitchens and is distributed in various Government schools. As a part of the employee engagement initiative, the Human Resource team of the Akshaya Patra arranged a school visit for the kitchen employees. This enterprise was taken up in order to weave a thread of connection between the kitchen staff and the school children.

Akshaya-Patra-kitchen-employees-visitThe employees visited the Government Higher Primary School Uttarahalli in Bangalore. The children assembled for their morning prayer after the bell rang. They were all curious to know, as to who were the people standing in front of them. The Principal announced that they were none other than the Akshaya Patra employees. The announcement was met with excited cheers and claps. The children were elated to meet the staff. When the Principal asked, whether the students would like to visit the centralised kitchen, there was a loud “YES” – the roar of 1000 enthusiastic children.

There was an interactive session, during which the children were briefed about the nature of work of the kitchen employees. In their interaction the employees explained the importance of the mid-day meal to the children. As the employees and the children talked, there was applause, laughter, and a lot of smiles. The children also shared their thoughts on their favourite Akshaya Patra dish. The employees were glad to meet the children for whom they cook and they understood how their effort is making a huge difference in the lives of the children.

 

read more
School Note

Akshaya Patra Aiding to Reduce School Dropout Rate

Akshaya-Patra-mid-day-meal-school-meal-beneficiaries

Akshaya Patra welcomes the The Child Tracking System (CTS) which is now being used by several government departments and is helping them take various health and education schemes to the children they are meant for more effectively.

Akshaya-Patra-mid-day-meal-school-meal-beneficiariesFor instance, the CTS is allowing the Department of Public Instruction keep a watch on dropouts and improve their social-economic conditions under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme. The relevant information is fed into the system for online tracking and the complete database of dropouts brought back to school, is updated in every taluk with each student’s photograph, name and family history.

As many as 1,244 of the 1,763 dropouts identified in early 2012-13 have been brought back to school this way. The CTS is helping identify potential dropouts and counsel them on the importance of education.

Akshaya Patra through its midday meal programme is also helping in reducing the dropout rates.

Many parents find it difficult to arrange a square meal for their children. Their resource are too meagre to take care of the need of the entire family. If mother is working she has to leave the house early for having no time to prepare food.  Such circumstances   force them to take their children out of school to either work outside or do household chores.  In such cases Akshaya Patra’s mid day meal acts as a big support for them taking off the burden of arranging meal for the child and allowing their children to study with filled stomachs

Akshaya Patra through its mid day- meal programme is feeding 1.3 million children across 19 locations of 9 Indian states covering more than 9000 schools every day.  The hot nutritious meal served acts as an incentive for the parents to make their children stay in school or let them join school. A.C Nielson study shows that mid day meal has reduced dropout rate and increased attendance, enrolment t with better performance of the students.

Source: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/130227/news-current-affairs/article/track-child-check-dropouts

 

read more
School Note

Akshaya Patra for “Right To Education”

no thumb

Akshaya Patra welcomes Government of India’s decision to implement law to provide free and compulsory education to all children in age group of 6-14 years.

With the implementation of this law we can ensure that every child gets education which is a key to success.

At present, there are nearly 22 crore children in the relevant age group. However, 4.6 per cent of these children (nearly 92 lakh) are out of school. Source: Ministry Official, Govt of India.

Due to the hunger in their bellies, children from weaker sections of society are often forced to go to hazardous working environments instead of classrooms where they ought to be. Some of those who do manage to attend the school perform poorly because of short attention spans and extreme hunger.

Akshaya Patra started the initiative of school meal program after realizing that a nutritious school meal is an effective means of getting underprivileged children come to school and complete their education.

“Through the implementation of this historic law Government of India wants to ensure quality education to children. And Akshaya Patra praised the Government of India in this initiative to ensure that “no child in India is deprived of education because of hunger”, said Sri.Chanchalapathi Dasa, Vice Chairman, Akshaya Patra Foundation.

read more