Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Work for Children this Republic Day

Sixty-seven years have passed since the Constitution of India came into effect and the sovereign democratic republic started its journey towards development.  However, the nation is yet to reach its destination and is still developing.

Definitely there is a reason for this. When India is facing several issues like population explosion, dowry system, poverty, religious discrimination, inflation how can it concentrate on development?

These are only some of the several issues India is struggling to solve today and to start with, the country should concentrate on its children and the issues surrounding them namely illiteracy, malnutrition and child labour. This is important because children are the future citizens of a nation and focusing on them will help speed up its development.


Education for Children

As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” a quality education can help transform a child’s life, decrease the wage gap that exists between genders, end child marriage, early pregnancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality and finally, bring a positive change on the nation.

However, in India literacy rate stands at 74.4 per cent. Achieving 100 per cent literacy can be a challenging task considering the rate of children dropout of schools currently.  Nearly 47.4 per cent children studying in class I-X drop-out of schools in India. The reasons for this occurrence vary from lack of some children’s interest in studies to their family’s poor economic condition.

To tackle illiteracy, Government of India has launched several schemes. The Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) 2000-2001, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and the Maharashtra Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MREGS) are some of them.

Apart from these, several initiatives like Teach for India and Teach India operate across the nation to end illiteracy in India.

Similarly, efforts taken by some individuals like Mukti Gupta (‘Help Us Help Them’-  school on wheels), Ritu Abbhi who is trying to give quality education to underprivileged children in Noida and Pranjal Dubey who sold his house to start a college for rural youth in Madhya Pradesh, fighting illiteracy are also praiseworthy.  

The Akshaya Patra Foundation has also helped improve school education in India. The NGO delivers freshly cooked meals to underserved children in India so that no child misses school due to hunger. The organisation, till today, has helped over 1.4 million students across 10 states in India.

A study conducted by AC Nielson on the impact of Akshaya Patra Mid-Day Meal Programme found that it had helped increase school attendance, improved nutritional status of children, helped improve enrolment and decreased drop-out rates.


Food for Children

Nearly 39 per cent of children under five in India are stunted and nearly 20 per cent are wasted. These figures bring concern as malnutrition affects physical - mental development of a child, damages his or her immunity, increases a child’s risk of developing diseases and even sometimes leads to early death.

In order to tackle malnutrition, the Indian Government has introduced several schemes including the Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme, Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDM), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Reproductive Child Health (RCH-II), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and Special Nutrition Programme (SNP).  Additionally, to run these schemes effectively, the Government has appointed frontline workers like Anganwadi Workers (AWW), The Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANM) and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANM).

Apart from the Government, several organisations and International agencies like Child in Need Institute (CINI), The Akshaya Patra Foundation, World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF work towards ending malnutrition in India.

The mid-day meals served by Akshaya Patra are rich in all the nutrients required for children’s growth and thus have been known to fight malnutrition.

Child Labour

Akshaya Patra Initiative

Child labour can slow down a nation’s progress and India has been trying to put an end to child labour since independence.  However, still about 43.53 lakh children aged between five and 14 are trapped in different fields including mining, quarrying, domestic service or agriculture.

When children start working at an early age, they miss out school and thus contribute to nation’s illiteracy rate. Additionally, starting physical work at a young age can leave a lasting impact on children’s health and make them more vulnerable to diseases.

The Factories Act (1948), The Mines Act (1952), The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976) The Child Labour Act (Prohibition and Regulation 1986) and The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009) have helped fight child labour in India. Additionally, several organisations like the International Labour Organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), M. Venkatarangaiya Foundation (MVF) and Pratham work to end child labour in India.

Also, the work of Akshaya Patra in ending child labour and bringing children back to school is really noteworthy.  Millions of children have returned to school because of the nutritious mid-day meals provided by the organisation.

Like these organisations and the Government, all of us have the responsibility to save our children from these issues and secure their future.

Getting involved in the good work is now very easy. You can volunteer in the different activities involved in the making of mid-day meal, fundraise with us or help us reach more children through donations.

Just ₹750 can feed a child a year.  This Republic Day, donate to the Mid-Day Meal Programme of Akshaya Patra and show your support and commitment to the future generation.


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