India’s education system does not exist in a vacuum – it is influenced by societal issues such as lack of nutrition. India’s Right to Education Act (RTE, implemented in 2010) legally supports inclusive education. The government, realising the importance of nutrition in encouraging education, has initiated Mid-Day meals. The Rs 13,000 crore Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDM) provides daily meals to 10 crore children in almost 12 lakh schools in classes 1 to 8 across government and government-aided schools. The program has proved the impact of access to nutrition to boost school attendance. Families, reassured that their children will receive food, feel encouraged to send them to school.
The impact of malnutrition
The impact of malnutrition doesn’t only apply to infant and child health. Children with lack of access a balanced diet rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and fat also tend to perform poorly in class.
Children with families that cannot afford access to nutrition may also push their children into child labour, further damaging their child’s future potential. Lack of proper nutrition, hygiene and subsequent ill health can therefore have a devastating impact on India’s children. India’s malnutrition crisis is even higher than Sub-Saharan Africa, and the country is home to one in every three malnourished children in the world.
Impact on education
These children are less likely to be capable of performing in school, and even be willing to attend school. This leads to children underperforming in academics, losing confidence in their capabilities, and dropping out. With their lower socio-economic status, girl children are given the least priority when it comes to nutrition access. With lack of nutrition come health problems, forcing them to not participate in daily schooling. This serves as a validation for regressive societies to push them into domestic duties, early marriages and motherhood. Again, with permanent lack of nutrition, they become at risk of maternal complications, and contribute to infant mortality.
Civil society: supplementing the government’s nutrition goals
Leading child rights NGO Bal Raksha Bharat is working on maternal and child nutrition, a key aspect of overall nutrition in communities through programs to end India’s chronic malnutrition programs.
Here are some program highlights from the NGO’s work across India:
i. Grassroots centres like the Malnutrition Treatment Centre in Tonk initiate nutrition rehabilitation, to address the high rates of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in local communities.
ii. Nutrition For Babies campaign: A rehab program designed for malnourished babies, providing resources to mothers, nurses, doctors, and families.
iii.Poshan Vatika’ (nutrition gardens) raise nutritious seasonal vegetables, added to mid-day meals to make them tastier and richer in essential nutrients. These engage the community, through the participation of school teachers and Aanganwadi ‘Sevikas’.
iv. Chennai: Aaharam’, an extension of the Mission Nutrition) launched by the NGO’s CSR partner GlaxoSmithKline: raising awareness about malnutrition among mothers, families and communities in slums.
v. Thane, Maharashtra: Village Child Development Centre (VCDC) undertaking screening and treating malnourished tribal children through Integrated Child Development Scheme centres, in association with Anganwadi workers.
vi. Stop Diarrhoea Initiative – improving Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) levels across Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal prevents stomach illnesses. These diseases can reduce nutrition absorption.
For this cause, the NGO is supporting the building of community toilet construction, promoting and building toilets in homes and schools, and providing hand washing facilities and clean water access. It is also participating in the government’s goal to end open defecation, an important cause of diarrhoea. School children trained to use a hygiene kit (a jar, soap, soap case and a nail cutter). Nutrition is just one of the many ways Bal Raksha Bharat is making an impact on communities across India. Donate to NGO fundraising to support the movement to give every child a future.