To keep students in school, local unit in Tehrathum launches mid-day meal programmeThe programme has not only helped retain students in community schools but has also managed to attract more students, say school authorities.
Aathrai, a remote local unit in Tehrathum district, has initiated the mid-day meal programme to keep a check on the alarming dropout rate and irregularity of the students in community schools.
The federal government had introduced the programme to encourage students from poverty-stricken families, who could not afford a good meal a day, to attend school. Various local units have continued this programme in the current academic session.
“We introduced the mid-day meal programme as the number of students started decreasing in various community schools in the district,” said Rupa Kandangwa, the deputy chief of the rural municipality. “Since we started the programme, the attendance of students in remote villages, mainly from poor and Dalit communities, has increased.”
The local unit, which is around 80km north-east from the district headquarters, started the programme from the current academic session that began in mid-April. The programme has been launched for students up to grade five.
The lunch package includes porridge with corn or millet flour bread, rice and other local food items.
Krishna Baraili, a fifth-grader at Mahendradayo Basic School in Thoklung, told the Post over the telephone that he as well as his friends are motivated to go to school because they no longer have to worry about studying on an empty stomach.
“Many students would leave midway because they would get hungry during the course of the day. But now that the school is providing them with lunch, they stay back to complete their lessons,” said Nanda Tamang, the headmaster of Mahendradayo Basic School.
The guardians too are happy about this development, says Tamang, since their children get to eat nutritious food during the lunch hour. “We can now send our children to school without having to worry about them going hungry during the day,” said Gopi Dhungana of Khamlung.
The mid-day meal programme has not only helped retain students in the community schools but has also managed to attract more students, says Debendra Kumar Moktan of the headmaster of Naule Basic School in Chhatedhunga.
“Some guardians have moved their children from private schools to community schools because of the mid-day meal programme. This is good in light of the declining number of students in community schools in the district,” he said.
Chairman of the rural municipality Man Bahadur Limbu said the programme became quite successful in attracting students to community schools.
“We have allocated a significant amount of budget to the mid-day meal programme; we had to take out funds from our development budget. So far, this move has been successful. We will extend the programme to higher grades in the next academic year,” said Limbu.
According to him, the local unit allocated Rs10 million budget for the mid-day meal programme.
There are 56 community schools in Aathrai Rural Municipality.
The Education Development and Coordination Unit has hailed the efforts of the local unit to attract students in community schools. “The mid-day meal programme has been very fruitful. Children are now happy to attend classes on a regular basis,” said Lilanath Pokharel, chief at the unit.
Photo caption: Students are seen having mid-day meal at Mahendradaya Basic School in Thoklung.
Photo courtesy: Krishna Chaulagain