Reported by Santosh Das
Tumudibandh/Baliguda, Aug 27:
Substandard or contaminated food being served as mid day meal (MDM) in schools across Odisha is passe. But not many know about the unhygienic and utterly revolting ambience in which food is served to children in some of the schools.
Take the sevashram school at Gatangi in Sudra panchayat under Baliguda block of Kandhamal district, for example, where children have to partake of food in the company of stray dogs and pigs in grossly filthy surroundings.
A total of 176 boys and girls in classes between I to VIII study in this school run by the ST, SC department. While the school has two regular teachers it has a sikshya sahayak and a gana sikshak to impart lessons to the 176 students.
As the bell rings heralding the time for mid day meal in the school, little children come out with plates in their hands to an open field without a boundary wall. Soon, they are joined by dozens of stray dogs and pigs.
Students are served their mid day meals under the open sky near decrepit toilets in the most unhygienic conditions, raising fears of an outbreak of an epidemic.
Apparently, the students are not served meals inside the classrooms since it would make them dirty. The weird desire to keep the classrooms clean forces the students to take their food under the dirtiest environment imaginable. Things become particularly bad when it rains midway through their meals. Little children with plates in their hands jostle for a space in the school’s verandah to save themselves from the rain.
There are allegations of children not being served with the prescribed quantity and quality of food. As per the standard norms, children studying in classes I to V are supposed to be served with 100 gm rice, 40 gm of pulses with a mix of vegetables. Students complain that they are served with only a spoonful of rice as their mid day meals.
Such instances puncture the tall claims of the government of providing free meals, books, uniforms and bicycles to attract children to school.