The state government on Monday held a review meeting to discuss a survey report by the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and UNICEF Gujarat on distress caused in households that did not get any benefit of mid-day meal scheme, which was an important factor of children going to school, since the Covid-19 lockdown in March.
Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama told The Indian Express, “The report was discussed at the review meeting with senior officials… We have studied the report and will submit our detailed response before the honourable High Court soon.”
The Gujarat High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of a report in The Indian Express on December 18 about the survey and issued notices to the principal secretary education department and commissioner mid-day meal, asking them to file their replies by January 5, 2021.
The survey of 375 low-income parents — 700 children residing in urban Ahmedabad between July to September 2020 — revealed that around 85 per cent of parents from households with children enrolled in government schools (nearly 31 per cent of the total sample) were not able to access anything in lieu of mid-day meals since March when schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The study conducted by Knowledge Management and innovations for Change, an IIMA and UNICEF initiative launched in 2015, was authored by IIMA’s faculty member Prof Ankur Sarin along with research associates. The survey held with an objective to understand accessibility to remote learning and material challenges faced by parents and children, revealed that about 15 per cent of parents received rice, wheat and/or pulses in lieu of mid-day meals.
The report revealed that even in cases where ration items were provided, the provisions were often given/taken only once with no follow-ups.
The average income of the sample was around Rs 1,990 per capita per month and more than 95 per cent of the households had less than Rs 4,400 monthly per capita income.
“Apart from stalling of learning, parents that rely on schools for their children’s nutritional needs (through mid-day meals in schools or food supplements in anganwadis) are more severely affected as the children face an increased risk of undernourishment. Several leaders from civil society organisations engaging in education related issues in India have also expressed their fear that decades of progress made in improving educational outcomes might be undone,” the report stated.
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