The new academic year starts on Monday and with it begins the nightmare for thousands of students every morning. With most schools starting as early as 7 am, many students, even those in Class I, will be again forced to skip breakfast to be able to reach on time.
The education department has, however, said it will crack the whip on schools that will force students to attend early morning schools.
According to parents, for a school that starts at 7.15 am, the school bus arrives at the pick-up point, usually far away from home, around 6.30 am or 6.15 am. “This means the child has to get up before 6 am. Having to eat breakfast at 6 is ridiculous,” said a parent, who did not wish to be named, calling the practice “inhuman”.
Mahaveer Mane, Director, Primary Education, however, said this year he would ensure that the schools stopped this practice and concentrate on the health of students. “In a day or two, we will issue a directive asking schools not to force children to attend early morning schools. It is true that children go to school empty stomach. I have been trying to solve this problem for some time, but several English medium schools have resisted this and refused to see reason. Because of this, some Marathi medium schools are also resorting to this practice,” he said.
“When adults don’t feel like eating as soon as they get up, how will the children have food so early in the morning? Nobody feels like eating as soon as you get up. How can we then force children to gulp down in a hurry and rush to schools,” asked Mane.
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Education officials said the state government had issued a directive to the schools at the peak of swine flue scare a few years ago not to start before 8 am. “However, while some schools are still toeing the line, others are blatantly flouting the norm,” said an official.
Mrudula Mahajan, principal of DY Patil School, Pimpri, which had drawn criticism from parents last year for changing the school hours from afternoon to morning, said: “We will seek parents’ view on changing the timing.” Throughout the last academic year, parents had demanded change in the school’s timings, but the management had remained adamant. At a parent-teacher meeting, the parents also submitted a written request, but the school still refused to do anything.
“Such schools will now face action,” said an education official.
Most of the parents alleged that school principals or teachers were not approachable.
“They are very rude. When we request them to change the timing of the school as our child has to go to school without breakfast, the principal and the teachers threaten us to throw our ward out of the school,” said a parent.
“In the PTA committee, the people are hand-picked by the school principal and they toe the school’s line,” he added. “No matter how much I shout or coax my children, they refuse to eat anything in the morning. They make do with a cup of milk before the school vehicle arrives,” said S Pandey, another parent.
Jayshree Marale, a retired civic school principal, said: “If children go to school without breakfast, how do you expect them to understand the lessons being taught in the classroom. Does anybody understand anything on empty stomach? This is an inhuman practice and should be stopped immediately.”
She added: “Remember, the lunch break in a school is only at 10 am. By then, the food becomes cold. This is what the children get to eat at a time when we have to ensure their good health.”