Uttar Pradesh is not only the most populous state of India but also home to India’s largest child population with 200 million aged between five and 14 years. This indicates that Uttar Pradesh will soon add 200 million people to the Indian workforce. But, whether they will be assets or liabilities depends on their current health, education, and developmental status. So, let’s quickly review the current educational scenario in Uttar Pradesh.
The Government has taken several steps to improve this critical situation in the state, and one of the important interventions is the Mid-Day Meal Scheme. The provision of mid-day meal in UP was introduced in September 2004. And, currently, this scheme benefits over 123.57-lakh students in 1,14,125 primary schools and 54.94-lakh students in 54,394 upper primary schools in the state. Along with government efforts, NGOs such as The Akshaya Patra Foundation has also stepped in to extend the benefits of mid-day meal in UP. And, over the years, it has been observed that the Mid-Day Meal Scheme has had a tangible impact on the school enrolment, attendance, and health of the students.
Akshaya Patra, an Indian mid-day meal NGO made its foray into Uttar Pradesh in August 2004 by establishing a centralised kitchen facility in Vrindavan. Gradually, in March 2015, the Foundation established itself as an NGO in Lucknow with its second centralised kitchen in the state to serve the school children in Lucknow. Both the kitchens are ISO 22000:2005 certified and together they are providing freshly cooked nutritious school lunch to 2,11,680 children in 3,021 schools of the state. The menu of mid-day meal in UP consists of locally palatable roti-subzi (Indian flatbread with mixed vegetable curry) along with other native food items so that maximum children eat their school lunch readily and joyfully.
According to a third party assessment of the Mid-Day Meal Programme run by Akshaya Patra revealed that there is a positive trend on the studied variables: elimination of classroom hunger, social equity, nutrition and health, enrolment, retention, and attendance. The report studied eight locations of Akshaya Patra and the overall score of Uttar Pradesh was 9.43 on a scale of 10. This indicates that while there is a visible change in the health and education scenario, there is also ample opportunity to multiply the impact.
The Government and NGOs are doing their bit to improve the current educational situation of Uttar Pradesh. But, as members of the same land, we too are responsible to uplift the society. Donate to charity and partake in the efforts to empower children. Even if we can improve the lives of at least a fraction of the 200 million children, it will be a significant move towards progress. Our contribution and participation have the potential to transform millions of young lives. So let’s wholeheartedly pitch in to make the children of Uttar Pradesh assets for the state and the nation!