Evaluation of Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme in Junagadh region of Gujarat
Shyam, Wanjari Kunal
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Hunger and nutritional status adversely impacts learning process of children. It contributes to increased dropout rates. Its collective impact is reflected in human development index. It is in this backdrop that Government of Gujarat had introduced MDM aimed to achieve an increase in enrolment rate and reduce dropout rates. The benefits of MDM were expected to reduce burden of poverty on poor parents and caste discrimination in the society. GoG started MDM scheme in 1984. This study is undertaken to assess the situation and take corrective measures for improvements. The objective / scope of this study is to assess effectiveness of MDM scheme in the context of impact indicators like student enrolment, dropout and attendance. The study covers critical components of MDM that include regularity, quality, physical infrastructure, hygiene, comparative analysis of rural v/s urban centres, stakeholder participation and favorable and unfavorable factors affecting the above components. The methodology includes review of relevant and available documents for secondary information, field visits to collect primary data from a wide range of stakeholders at various levels. The stakeholders include relevant government officials, school principal, teachers, parents, sanchalaks and head cooks and also members of Mother Teacher Association (MTA). The sample-size was 106 centres (at the rate of 20 percent of total centres) spread over 4 talukas in Junagadh district of Western Gujarat. The total sample size of respondents was 2014. structured questionnaires and FGD were used to capture required information. The data collected was found for interpretation which resulted in certain major findings as discussed below: Students belonging to poor and disadvantaged socio-economic households take MDM regularity. It was also noticed that some children also brought their tiffin and ate it with MDM. Some students residing in nearby school preferred to take MDM to their homes. Students and parents realized the importance of education, which is reflected by the fact that 94 percent of the students go to school irrespective of MDM and 96 percent of parents confessed that they will continue to send their children to school even if MDM is withdrawn. It is found that there are about 91 percent of schools meeting the norm of at least 200 MDM days in a year. It is observed that 82 percent of school has MDM days in the range of 200 to 210 days. Similarity, there were 211-220 number of MDM days served in around 16 percent of schools surveyed. Although the MDM scheme is being incomplete in the study area effectively, however, some areas of improvement have been identified like infrastructure, hygiene, and storage, quality of grains and satisfaction of level of beneficiaries. Details can be found in relevant section. There were 47 schools in Junagadh district having stock for less than 1 week, out of which 27 schools were having inadequate stocks and 20 schools were having sufficient stocks. Number of schools having stock for 1-2 weeks were 35, with 30 schools having sufficient stock and 5 schools having inadequate stock. Similarity schools having stocks for 2-4 weeks were 17, with 15 schools having inadequate stock and 2 schools with sufficient stock. It was observed that about 30 percent of schools surveyed had the sanchalaks keeping stock at home, despite having the storage facility at the centre. There were also some schools where MDM was cooked at sanchalak’s home despite having kitchen shed facility. Comparison of urban and rural MDM profile was undertaken in the context of percentage of beneficiaries with respect to total enrolments. Increase in enrolment rate, quantity served, food taste, storage system and disruption in regularity of MDM. The urban centres fared better on enrolment rates, storage system and disruption in MDM regularity. Taking into account the successful management of MDM at the grass roots by NGOs it is recommended to scale up the model under MDM scheme. Partnership with women SHG and Sakhi Mandals can also be considered for MDM. Principals, teachers and particularly MTA should be sensitized to play proactive role to ensure effective and transparent implementation of MDM through community-based monitoring mechanism. In order to overcome the issue of delayed payment to cooks, the school management may frame a process of bill submission and verification online through its website.