Akshaya Patra Aiding Children to Brave Changing Times
Every meal that is served to the children has its own share of story. This story of Neha and her siblings shows how the mid-day meal is helping them continue their education.
Neha Singh enjoys assisting her teachers while serving the mid-day meal at school. The grade 5 student says, “I enjoy serving food because everybody looks forward to you. Everybody calls out my name and asks for a roti. It makes me feel good.” The teachers of the school appreciate Neha’s benevolent attitude.
For Neha, this is the first year that she has been exposed to the mid-day meal programme in the school. Prior to joining the Government Primary School in Sindhi Nadir, Jaipur, Neha studied in a private school. Her family’s financial crisis forced the three sisters including Neha to join the Government school so that they could continue their education. Like most other children, Neha loves the “rice and biscuit” among all that is served by Akshaya Patra in the mid-day meal. She walks every day for 20 minutes to reach the school. Neha is good at studies and wants to study English in her High School.
Jaipur is globally renowned of semi precious stones and jewellery made out of it. Neha’s parents work involves making holes in semi precious stones. Their earnings depend on the number of stones they finish in a day. Neha’s mother, Sarita Singh says, “It is a very intricate work as it requires lot of concentration.” Neha’s father Jithendra Singh says that they are busy during the months from February to July since there is an influx of tourists to Rajasthan during those months. But the rest of the year is hard for the family. Adding to the problem is inflation that directly impacts the family’s savings.
Sarita wants her children to get good education. She says, “We never got to study much, but I want my children to lead a secure life. Though our children had to be shifted to Government schools because of financial problems, I hope they will continue to perform well at school.”
Neha’s family has gone through a whirlwind of change. A few years ago, they had about 10 artisans working for them, now her parents are working as daily wage labourers to feed the family. It is in these circumstances the mid-day meal programme has helped the daughters of the family to grow strong and nourish their dreams. If not for the mid-day meal, as in the mother’s words, “We would give them whatever little we can spare, for a wholesome meal at home is now a reminiscence of the past.”