Better give solid food to schoolchildren

As part of a national nutrition programme the offer of a glass of fresh milk to each pupil in primary schools was among the 2019 budget proposals. Many pros and cons were expressed about the proposal during the days of the budget debate. At present we have no news about its implementation or operation. So why not refresh the memory of the concerned parties.

As all of us are aware that it is a common habit of successive governments to bring out such welfare proposals ahead of elections. Hence, the present one can’t be an exception. We remember similar projects such as giving milk, buns, biscuits, rice, gruel etc. to schoolchildren since 1950s, such welfare projects appear and disappear seasonally. In my view, any nutrition programme aimed at schoolchildren should be a continuing internal fixed procedure of the Ministry of Education, and not at the discretion of the annual budget makers,

The purpose of this article is to propose a less troublesome alternative to the offer of fresh milk.

The distribution of any liquid component (milk in this case) particularly among primary school students is rather troublesome due to many reasons. Possible hazards: spilling on desk, dropping on the floor, leaking from sachets or packets, moving here and there without damaging wrappers and vulnerability of the risk of germs, precise observation of expiry dates, storing in hygienic conditions are all serious issues. In the case of leftovers, remains and excesses, collecting of empty wet sachets and packets etc, a system of cleaning the premises with stained floors has to be ready in every class. This is an extra burden to teachers.

Another aspect to consider is that the consumption of milk (by the children) is highly a personal choice made by mothers for their children. It couldn’t be a common or a random choice for a larger population. Milk is a wholesome drink; no argument about it. However, it might show some allergic effects on different individuals. From experience we know that milk consumption increases phlegm/mucus level in some individuals or it creates stomach disturbances such as indigestion, loose stools, loose motion (back door trots}. If such things happen to children at schools, the teachers have to be occupied with health issues, instead of teaching. With these concerns mothers are careful about feeding their children with fresh or powdered milk. They also add tea, coffee, chocolate powder, malt, vanilla etc, to avoid such side effects. So, why worry about milk? Let mothers do what they like.

A drink gratifies only thirst. Everybody nowadays is in the habit of taking a bottle of water to school. Otherwise, drinking water is available in any school, so one can manage with water. Even if milk is given its effect might remain for some time only. The main problem to address is hunger. It is not a secret that most pupils don’t bring their lunch to schools. Such pupils go out of the class during the lunch break and fill the stomach with water while concealing hunger. They would find it difficult to concentrate on studies. In such instances, many kind teachers generously offer their lunch to such needy children.

If the government has a genuine concern about improving the nutrition of school children at national level, wouldn’t It be better to provide a solid food stuff that might keep hunger away for the whole duration of the school session? In this context it is easy to choose stuff made of grains. For example, varieties known as Samaposha, Yahaposha, Suposha manufactured by reputed local companies could be a good substitute. These varieties are popular as well as affordable. At present, this stuff is available on the market in 200 gram packets in ready to eat state. For distribution to schools the quantity of the stuff varying from 50,75,100 grams has to be weighed and the shape of the grain powder mixture could be in the form of a ball, a roll, a biscuit, a slice , a chunk etc. wrapped in biodegradable material for convenience of distribution.

All that the government has to do is to appoint these three food manufacturing companies as suppliers of the above named foodstuffs to schools. It would cost less than the amount that is to be spent on milk. If this option is chosen many grain farmers can find a regular means of income, and public funds would remain in our country not having to fall into multinational opal company coffers.

So, over to the President, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Education, and other responsible officers, to reconsider the proposed milk project and substitute it with a solid food programme.


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