In incentivising education and bringing more children to school, the mid-day meal programme has created a pool of talent that needs to be harnessed and nurtured, says AJAY KAVISHWAR
If we consider today’s children the flagbearers of tomorrow, one of the best measures of our progress as a nation can be the quality of life that we have to offer them. It is therefore imperative that we nurture them in their developmental years through a combination of carefully considered nutritional and educational interventions.
It is evident from the success of the mid-say meal programme that anutritious meal can go a long way in supporting the health and education of children. In bringing 94 million children to school, the programme ensures that they are not deprived of their right to education and right to aspire or the right to a bright future.
The programme serves as an incentive for children to come to school. More importantly, it provides parents an incentive to send their children to school. The resultant boost in enrolment, attendance, and retention rates in schools, the performance of children, and the improvementin their nutritional profile bode well for the socioeconomic progress of the nation.
When children sit together to have their mid-day meal, it eradicates the barriers of caste, religion, and economic status, and fosters the sense of socialisation, thus contributing towards the development of community and the nation.
Considering that one of the primary objectives is to improve the nutritional status of children, the integration of millets in mid-day meals through a collaboration between the Centre and State's MDM and agriculture departments can be a massive step towards child welfare. The inclusion of these high-fibre, protein and micronutrient-rich smartfoods of the 21st Century can add to the nutritional value of mid-day meals, thus contributing towards the enhanced nutritional status and health of the beneficiaries.In fact, finger millet (ragi), with thrice the amount of calcium compared to milk, and pearl millet (bajra) with their rich iron and zinc content are considered perfect health foods for children and deserving constituents of their regular diet.
Going beyond ‘food for education’ to ‘smart food for education’ is in the best interest of the children. In the long run, nutrition combined with a conducive environment for learning in schools can enhance the physical and psychological development of children, thus fuelling their aspirations and putting them on a path to a bright future.
In incentivising education and bringing more children to schools, the programme has created a large pool of talent that needs to be harnessed and nurtured. It is important to assure children at a young age that their dreams are valid. Furthermore, we ought to support these dreams by promoting and supporting them because if their talent is not harnessed in early life, it is most likely to go untapped.
In developing countries, when the talent pool is large, it may remain undeveloped due to lack of resources. While the Government's efforts to bring children to school by incentivising education is commendable, these efforts need to be supported. If corporates and non-profit organisations can contribute towards such initiatives in the form of infrastructure, expertise, and resources, it can be a massive step towards providing children a better future by encouraging them to explore their passion.