Mid-day Meals For Kids Bring Teachers To Schools !

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New Delhi, Jan 8 (UNI) Mid-day meals served for schoolchildren are helping, among other things, curb teacher absenteeism, the Human Resource Development Ministry claimed today.

''Curbing of teacher absenteeism'' was one of half a dozen ''positive outcomes'' of the scheme, an HRD Ministry statement said.

The statement offered no statistics to back up its claims, but officials cited findings of two researchers in 2005.

Prof Amartya Sen of Pratichi Trust who studied the Cooked Mid Day Meal Programme in West Bengal's Birbhum District reported it ''has curbed teacher absenteeism''.

Dharwad University researcher Rama Naik who studied Karnataka's Akshara Dasoha Scheme reported it ''has made positive impact on teacher absenteeism. Sixtyfour per cent of school(s) felt that there has been a reduction.'' HRD officials said increasing parent and community involvement in the scheme-- in supervising cooking, for instance-- may have an effect also on teachers who sense that their absence won't go unnoticed.

Here are the other outcomes the Ministry statement listed: -- Elimination of class room hunger; -- Higher enrolment, especially girls'; -- Surge in daily attendance, particularly of girls and children from poorer sections; -- Improvement in retention, learning ability and achievement; -- Narrowing of social distance; -- A rallying point for parents' involvement in governance of schools.

The Indian effort launched nationwide a decade ago is believed to be the world's largest such programme covering nearly 97 million primary schoolchildren-- classes I-V-- and is expected to cover 17 million secondary school kids-- classes VI-VIII around 2008-09.

The programme follows norms set by the central government which is also responsible for funding it.

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