Children eat lunch at a community school in this file photo. Photo: Republica Files
BHAIRAHAWA, April 28: At a time when schools across the country are trying several means to attract students, Siyari Rural Municipality has grabbed attention due to one of its recent decision. The rural municipality has made it mandatory for community school students to carry healthy food to school in their tiffin box. If students up to the fifth standard are found reaching school without tiffin, they are likely to be deprived of government facilities. This applies to all community schools.
Before introducing the new rule, the municipality had held rounds of meeting with stakeholders. Locals were invited to the discussion. Stating that parents are trying to escape from their responsibilities by handing over money to children instead of preparing nutritious food for them, the rural municipality decided to impose the rule on families.
According to the rural municipality ‘s office, the new rule will not only improve children’s health and well being, but also will contribute to family bonding which it claimed is fading these days. “This is expected to help in family bonding, apart from ensuring good health of children,” said the rural municipality chairperson Ayodhya Tharu. “These days, irrespective of whether one is living in village or town or big cities, parents’ attention is so much divided. They do not care even about providing homemade food to kids,” he added.
Tharu went back to the memory lane. He stated that though not very tasty, children during his time would get healthy food to eat. “These days, all children are dependent on noodles and biscuits for snacks. We did a thorough study before taking this decision,” he said. “If we compel children to bring homemade fresh items, that will have multiple impacts on the child and the family,” he added.
He also said that the rule aims to make people self-reliant on lunch box food given to children. “We have not only encouraged children to eat homemade foods but have also asked parents to grow vegetables and fruits at home wherever possible,” he said. Growing dependency on the market has weakened the culture of growing organic vegetables and fruits in their garden, he said. The ever-widening concrete jungle has taken a toll on such practice.
According to Tharu, parents and other stakeholders were consulted in several rounds of meeting while they discussed how to be self-reliant, dignified and economical. “We brought into discussion various issues including how to make children love homemade food and how to provide organic food to them. What is very important is to keep them away from packaged foods,” he said.
If schools fail to implement the rule, action will be taken against them, Tharu said. But at the individual level, a child who fails to bring such tiffin will be questioned, and even his or her scholarship or recommendation would be cancelled.
In community or government schools, children get to study without paying tuition fees. The government provides free education. However, many community schools are found to collect some money from children as a donation or under some other headings. Schools operate with either government or private resources, and in many cases, they depend on both. According to Tharu, community schools in his area, if children fail to bring tiffin, may be deprived of free education. But in exceptional cases, something will be arranged from the side of the municipality itself, he stated. Tharu also informed that the schools would arrange a refrigerating system to keep children’s snacks fresh. For this, the budget has already been allocated.
Earlier, the mid-day meal provided in community school was very popular. It had become a huge attraction for kids from marginalized and poor class. However, following irregularities, the government later discouraged it. Cases of children falling sick after having food provided at school made it controversial, apart from resources crunch.
“It was simply not good to depend on NGOs or INGOs for our children’s meal. It is the duty of us, the parents to provide for kids. So we think we have very rightly imposed this rule,” said Tharu. “In an exceptional case, we could reconsider the rule,” he said.
Krishna Bhushal, coordinator of the rural municipality’s education department meanwhile stated that though the government set admission deadline is now over, it is still on for the locals of the rural municipality.
“On 27 April, the deadline for new admission is over. But we have extended it for a few more weeks, “ Bhushal said.