Today’s Challenges — Mid Day Meals

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 13 Jul 2020

Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

7 Jul 2020 – The COVID-19 infection has had many adverse impacts all over the world. Apart from its impact on health and several thousand fatalities linked to this epidemic, it has resulted in negative offshoots in the areas of economy, industry, nutrition, education, tourism. People who liked to move around meeting friends or just loitering around in parks or malls or market places cannot now do so because of the complete lockdown. This forced isolation is psychologically hurtful and adds to the other problems faced by the people under today’s pandemic.

The tourism sector is also severely affected–monuments, temples, churches, etc. are closed; even if they had not been shut, there was no way to reach these tourist and religious places. The shops selling souvenirs and the guides taking tourists around are unhappy facing the resultant closure. Some of these places have recently opened but the heritage Taj Mahal is still closed to public because Agra where it is situated has had several cases of people testing positive to the infection.

As industrial units closed down, large scale migration of millions of people from urban centres to rural areas took place. Due to lack of employment, many poor people could not acquire sufficient food especially for their children leading to their suffering from pangs of hunger. This was accentuated due to the closure of schools during the pandemic.

In India, government schools provide mid day meals (MDM) to the students who generally come from low income households. Not only do these schools charge no fees, the provision of MDM attracts students to come to school regularly. With schools shut, the nutrition being provided stopped. The accompanying photo taken from a village in the eastern Indian state of Bihar shows poverty and hunger written clearly on the faces of these young children. The children looked forward to being served eggs on Fridays in addition to rice, roti and dal. All this has stopped due to the closure of the schools.

Apart from the issue of nutrition, since schools and colleges are closed, students suffer educationally also. Although online teaching through the medium of internet and laptops is occurring, its impact on learning is severely daunted for several reasons — lack of familiarity by teachers to offer teaching by this mode and the occasional breakdown of the internet especially in some rural regions. Moreover, the facility of asking questions and the absence of children studying or playing together impact the learning process.

However, there are some positive educational features also occurring in the pandemic. Recently a photo of a fifteen-year-old girl, Roshni, appeared in the newspapers. She used to go to her school cycling 12 km each way from her village in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Roshni belongs to a farmer’s family. She astounded everyone including herself by securing 98.5 % marks in the tenth Board Examinations and securing 8th rank among all students. Amazing! She is hopeful for rejoining her school to continue her education; unfortunately the school is shut at present. By the way, Roshni in Hindi language means Light.

The continuing lockdown of institutions, offices, industries, etc. has several adverse impacts (with rare exceptions) on society and people. How to face this novel unprecedented situation bravely and with composure? Some people who are religious minded delve deep into themselves— into their souls as a matter of fact, and feel a sense of relief. According to a Catholic philosopher:

A spiritual soul cannot be corrupted, it cannot be disintegrated…

So tag onto your soul and you will feel relieved.

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Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Jul 2020.

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