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Kerala:The breakfast scheme for schools

The breakfast scheme for government school students from classes 1 to 5 was launched in Madurai on Thursday by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, and he served and had food with the children.

Inaugurating the programme, Mr. Stalin said the scheme would bring beneficial change in the lives of the poor and billed the initiative as one that would earn a place in history.

Citing similar initiatives in the US and Europe, he said several studies have concluded that such breakfast programmes lead to improved learning skills and school attendance.

The vision of iconic leaders like Periyar E V Ramasamy, C N Annadurai, and M Karunanidhi was that nothing—be it poverty or caste—should be an obstacle to accessing education, he said.

Following in the footsteps of such leaders, Mr. Stalin said he experienced boundless joy when he was fulfilling their dreams.

In the early 1900s, when the Colonel Olcott School took shape in Chennai, it was social reformer Pandithar Iyothee Thassar who sowed the seeds of providing lunch to schoolchildren.

First, the noon meal scheme was launched in 1922 in a Chennai Corporation school by Mayor Pitti Theagarayar, a stalwart of the Justice Party, which was the precursor to the Dravidian movement, Mr. Stalin said.

Months ahead of independence, the British regime had put the noon meal scheme on hold, citing financial constraints.

Mr. Stalin claimed to have tracked the evolution of the lunch programme in Tamil Nadu since then.

During an inspection of government schools in Chennai, Mr. Stalin said he learned that many children came to schools without having their breakfast.

Considering such a scenario, he said students should not be taught when they are hungry and that is the reason for launching the breakfast scheme.

“The expenditure is 12.75 per child per day, and I am using the word expenditure in the administrative sense. This is not an expense. This is our government’s duty and my duty. I assure you that all steps will be taken for the phased extension of the scheme and its comprehensive implementation. Such programmes are neither “freebies” nor concessions; this is the duty and responsibility of the government, he said.

The key objectives of the scheme are to provide free of cost to children, prevent hunger and nutritional deficiency, and ensure enhancement of nutrients, besides easing the burden of working women.

The scheme, which has an allocation of 33.56 crore, will be implemented in a total of 1,545 schools, benefiting 1,14,095 students across the state. This is the first phase.

The chief minister launched the scheme at the Aadhimoolam Corporation Primary School in Madurai by serving breakfast to children, and he sat with them on the floor and had food along with them.

Mr. Stalin inspected the central kitchen at Nelpettai here and flagged off vehicles carrying food to various schools. He released a souvenir tracing the food programmes implemented in government-run schools in Tamil Nadu for about a century, and social activist Kamalathal received the first copy.

Supervisory committees comprised of officials from various government departments will monitor the implementation of the schemes at the state, district, and school levels.

Tamil Nadu’s top officials and elected representatives were in attendance, including Ministers Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi (School Education), E V Velu (Public Works), and K R Periyakaruppan (Rural Development).

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