For close to 10 years now, PK Ilamaran, a government school teacher from Chennai has been petitioning the government to sponsor breakfast for students who attend state run schools. In his two decade journey as a teacher, he noticed how children from poor families, who could not afford to feed them in the morning, would complain of headaches and suffer from sunstrokes after coming to class.
But with the government unresponsive to the requests, Ilamaran, who is also the President of the Tamil Nadu Teachers Association, decided to take matters into his own hands. The teacher who works at a High School in Kodungaiyur now leads by example and sponsors breakfast for 120 children in his institution.
"It was really horrible for me to see the children so weak. All the students here come from families with a single parent, or where the parents are daily wage labourers. They come to school without breakfast and can hardly focus on the classes," says Ilamaran. "So I made a list of students who were not eating breakfast and that came upto 120. I then began bringing in food for them between 8 am and 9 am every day," he adds.
Since July 1 this year, Ilamaran has been arranging for pongal and idlis to be brought from the nearest Amma Unavagam for the students. He is spending nearly Rs 5000 from his own pocket each month to ensure the children eat a nutritious breakfast.
"This is a very small price to pay for the health and development of these students," says Ilamaran. "Ever since we began this breakfast system, students are coming to school on time and they are able to focus in class. They also come to school with more enthusiasm and that is the best reward for us as teachers. Only if they eat well can they study well," he adds.
The teacher's association president says it would be beneficial for students if the state government took up this initiative and ensured breakfast along with midday meals for the students.
"And if they don't, perhaps teachers in other schools can pitch in," says Ilamaran. "Our principal Muni Ramaiah was very encouraging of this idea and helped execute it. And we are already seeing the results in terms of increased attendance."