As students across the U.S. head out to do their back-to-school shopping, we wanted to take a look at what life is like for students in India. Bangalore, India is the location of one of Stop Hunger Now’s six in-country offices around the globe. Dola Mohapatra, Executive Director of Stop Hunger Now India, shared his insights about the differences between schools in India and the U.S.
Are schools in India on a similar calendar schedule to schools in the U.S.?
In most States, sessions are from June to March (with vacation in April and May) with some variations because of seasonal issues like monsoons, extreme heat or cold or local festivals.
What do students do to prepare for the beginning of a new school year?
Students are asked to buy a uniform, stationery, textbooks and other items for their new sessions. This is common across the country. In some States, the Government offers free uniforms, textbooks, bicycles and even laptops to students. While some States give these to all students, some provide these for children from poor economic backgrounds, or from disadvantaged communities, or to girls exclusively.
How have Stop Hunger Now meals impacted schools and students in India?
The Indian government has a universal mid-day meal program which covers all government-run schools throughout the country. This initiative has been credited with attracting out-of-school children into the classroom, especially in rural areas. However, the quality of education in many of these schools is not up to mark. This has led to creation of a number of schools run by NGOs or private institutions. Even in rural areas, parents with modest incomes prefer their children to go to these privately run schools instead of the government schools. It is rather unfortunate, but the Federal and State Government are working on turning this around.
Stop Hunger Now meals support some of the schools who are not receiving mid-day meals from the Government. These schools are largely run by NGOs or charitable institutions with approvals from the governmental education authorities. These schools primarily depend on government or corporate grants, tuition fees and private donations.
Some NGOs, like Hope Foundation School, who run schools exclusively for poor children receive Stop Hunger Now meals for all the students in order to incentivize them to stay in school. [Ed. note: That’s because 45 million children of school-going age in India work instead of attending school.] There are some others, who have children from diverse economic backgrounds–some who can cover their expenses and some not so well-off. In such schools, Stop Hunger Now meals are provided exclusively to children from impoverished families.
Stop Hunger Now meals also support another group of institutions who run special schools for physically disabled children. These schools provide free education to all students.
Joyce Correa, Manager of Hope Foundation School, shared the impact of Stop Hunger Now meals in her school, “Don’t underestimate the power of one meal. That one meal is what brings children to school and that gives us the opportunity to build the child’s personality. The child may not know this, but the meals are more than just food for a school like ours.”