In an initiative to help students from rural areas, mid-day meals will now be implemented in intermediate colleges, for students of Class 11 and 12 in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh. This is possibly the first time in India that mid-day meals will be implemented for students from Classes 11 and 12.
An official from the Visakhapatnam Collectorâ€™s office told TNM, â€śThis initiative has been taken up by the government after realizing that many students who attend the colleges come from smaller districts and mandals and do not have the option to go home for lunch.â€ť
The Right to Education Act states that children have the right to free and compulsory education at the elementary education level. Though the Act specifically applies to children between the ages of 6 and 14, the initiative taken up by the Andhra Pradesh government is now being expanded to include students of Class 11 and 12, considering the prevalence of malnutrition in the state.
It has been estimated that about 2 lakh students will benefit from the scheme, according to officials, who have also stated that this measure will also help to combat malnutrition and could possibly discourage students from dropping out of school, specifically those coming from a lower socioeconomic background.
Approximately Rs 23 crore has been allocated in the stateâ€™s 2018 to 2019 annual budget for the extension of the midday meal scheme, alone.
The government is also planning to increase the number of eggs served weekly from three to five in an effort to improve the nutritional status of students.
Malnutrition has been documented to be prevalent in children across the state of Andhra Pradesh with reports from 2015 to 2016 showing that up to 61% of women in the age group of 15 to 49 years, alone, were found to be anaemic.
Implementation of the midday meal scheme is thought to be able to help bring down those numbers by targeting students at the peak of their growth.
The midday meal scheme was first introduced in 1962 in Tamil Nadu which was later improved in 1982 by then Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, who increased the number of students reached to 65 lakhs from an earlier 56 lakh students.
The mid-day meal scheme was introduced as a central scheme in India in 1995 and was implemented in Andhra Pradesh in 2003, for students in Classes 1 to 5 and was later expanded in 2008 to include Classes 6 to 10 as well.