In the coastal region of Karnataka, the months of June, July and August which mark the monsoons are tough for hundreds of families whose livelihood depends on deep sea fishing. At the Government Higher Primary School in Bengre Kasba located in the city of Mangalore, the children are eager to come to school in spite of the heavy downpour. The Principal of the school, Juliet Pinto, says, “The attendance ratio is very good at the school. Though the district is known for a good literacy rate and the city is a well known educational hub, the children come to our school because the mid day meal is a lucrative incentive for them.”
The principal explains that the school is situated very close to the port which is locally known as “Bander”. Children come from households where at least one member of the family is associated with fishing and its subsidiary industries. The monsoon months are hard on these families because of the ban on fishing. It is banned for two reasons: It’s the fish breeding season and also because the sea currents pose a threat to the lives of fishermen who go fishing. Hence the people from these communities survive of meager savings.
Tazeeb Anisha, a grade 6 student in the school says, “I like the food that is served in the school.” Her father sharpens knives for a living. He supplements the family income by taking up small errands at the port to support his eight member family. There are many like Anisha who depend on the mid day meal for a nutritious and tasty meal. The 20-odd classrooms echo in unison -“payasa”, when asked about the favourite part of the mid day menu. Payasa is a sweet prepared out of whole wheat, jaggery and grated coconut. The dish is rich in iron and proteins.
The principal of the school reiterates that the mid day meal is beneficial for the children. She explains that it was only in 2010, that Akshaya Patra began feeding the school. Earlier to this the food used to be cooked in the school premises. She says, “We used to face a lot of problems. There were labour issues. There have been times when the cooks wouldn’t report to work and we had to ask few women who live close by to cook. Additionally since we didn’t have proper storage facility, vegetables would rot easily.”
The school is situated about 15 kms away from the city and the most affordable mode of transportation to the school is the ferry. A few years earlier when the food used to be cooked at the school, the vegetables and other raw materials were transported from the port through these ferries. If the ferry was late, the food would be cooked late and hence the children would go hungry for a few hours. The teachers says, “Now with The Akshaya Patra Foundation providing mid day meals, we have no worries. All the children enjoy the food. As teachers, we can now focus on their education.”
Akshaya Patra mid day school meal mangalore beneficiariesHealth camps are conducted thrice a year, one of which is conducted by a government clinic which is situated close to the school. Incidentally the clinic was set up at the same time when Akshaya Patra began feeding the school. The health supervisor says, “Except for cases of general flu and common cold which is prevalent in the rainy season, the children have been found to be healthy.”
A trophy placed on the principal’s table tells a story of pride. The girls’ football team won an inter-school football match a few months ago. This perhaps reinstates the importance of nutrition and its impact – a goal hit right!
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