Many children in India (belonging to low-income families) find themselves thrown into the real-world battles quite early in life. In a country where Right to Education is a law, as many as 126,66,377 children work in various sectors only to earn their meal for the day. Yet, a change has been brewing steadily where children today are opting education over work.
Every Child Must be Educated
Earlier, many families considered a child to be an additional resource to fetch income to feed the family and to feed the children. This has considerably changed over the years. Thanks to the initiatives and schemes by the Government of India, many children are now encouraged to attend school. Additionally, when the children started to benefit from mid-day meal schemes in schools, they started bringing along their siblings which solved the problem of most parents.
The Changes over the Years
The 1998 National Census of India estimated the total number of children workers, aged 4-15, to be at 12.6 million, out of a total child population of 253 million in 5-14 age group. The 2011 National Census of India found the total number of working children, aged 5-14, to be at 4.35 million, and the total child population to be 259.64 million in that age group. So yes, the numbers have declined but the problem of putting children to school remains to be solved.
A National Policy on Child Labour was formulated in 1987 and ever since, the government has tried to ensure children attend school. One of the more remarkable steps of the government has been the enactment of ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act’ or Right to Education Act also known as RTE. It was enacted on August 4 2009, which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. In addition, the government set off to accelerate the various policies about children’s education in its existing system.
One such step was the launching of Mid-Day Meal Scheme in 2004. This scheme has seen several reforms over the years with a view to include all of government schools in the system. The primary objective of Mid-Day Meal Programme is to feed one wholesome meal to children in order to encourage them to come to school. The government has tied up with non-governmental organisations in order to implement MDMS efficiently in schools to reach out to as many children as possible.
Benefits of Mid-Day Meal Programme
Children are now encouraged to attend school and this has so far proved to be a win-win for parents belonging to economically weaker sections. The parents are now realising that they can feed the children by relying on school lunch programmes. The Mid Day Meal Scheme has benefitted the children in more ways than one. Properly-fed children feel more motivated to work hard on their academics, experience an overall physical and mental growth and understand the importance of having ambitions for future.
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