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School closure hits 48 lakh noon meal scheme beneficiaries
The shutdown over coronavirus has had a serious impact on more than 48 lakh students of government schools across Tamil Nadu hailing from economically backward families, who have been deprived of hot, cooked, nutritious, variety meals supplied as part of the nutritious noon meal scheme for the past one week due to the closure of schools.
Anxious about their children, many are urging the government to provide dry ration to the families as is being done in the case of children registered with anganwadi centres.
As per the scheme, primary school students in the age group of 5-9 years and upper primary students in the age group of 10-15 years (From Class 1 to Class 10) are provided nutritious meals inside the school premises itself five days a week for a total of 220 days in a year. The menu includes vegetable biriyani, sambar rice, tomato rice, tamarind rice, curry leaf rice, lemon rice, mixed meal maker vegetable rice, pepper egg and fried potato.
However, with the State government ordering the closure of schools from Monday, the children who have been asked to stay at home for safety reasons are not getting the food for a week.
Due to this, the parents of around 48.56 lakh school children who are registered for noon-meal scheme at the State-run schools must make arrangements to provide them food at home.
“I don’t know how much calories and protein my daughter would get from the home food as we don’t have the means to provide similar healthy food as provided in the school,” said K Shoba, a domestic worker, whose daughter is a Class 5 student at a government school in Anakaputhur.
Though the government direction is to close the schools till March 31, many parents are worried when the noon-meal programme would resume. They are urging the State government to distribute dry ration at the doorsteps as has been done in the case of children registered with anganwadi centres.
“Though the government says that the schools will be closed only till March 31, we are not sure as to when the virus threat will end enabling schools to reopen,” said P Sridhar, deputy secretary of the parents-teacher association of a school in Pallavaram.
“For the past one week, my daughter keeps saying that the school food is tastier and healthier than home food. At least for that reason, the government should provide us dry ration,” Shoba said, adding: “We are also ready to collect it from the school.”
Echoing similar demand, Sridhar said the government should take a decision immediately to provide at least dry ration to the beneficiaries of the noon-meal scheme.