Saturday, July 13, 2013

The MDM Curse - Part 2

"By definition a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy but nothing more" (Albert Camus)

Hello Everyone,

I am not sure how many of us have been to villages in India. But for those who have they must have seen the conditions of the schooling in those villages. In some places it is worse than others. But what is fact that cannot be missed is the joy on the faces of the kids who go to school (well for most of the kids :) ). This was very good until the MDM (Mid Day Meal) program was launched by the government. I am not saying it is not a good initiative but the very purpose for which it was launched never got fulfilled and instead people adopted it for another purpose.

One of my elder relative teaches in a government school and he oversees the execution of the program. I asked him few questions. Below is the short interview (translated of course):

Me: So do you think that MDM actually helps?

Him: It is more of a headache than a help. Now we can’t even focus on our actual job of teaching because we have to devote our time to the accounts management related to the MDM program. we have to keep track of expenses, prepare reports, send reports on a daily basis. Now another hurdle has been added of sending the reports on SMS too.

Me: So you mean that the program has not attracted new and more students.

Him: You have to understand that the purpose of the program was that with the prospect of one free meal more students would be attracted towards studies. True more students have been attracted but not towards studies, only towards the meal.....

Me: So you mean to say that students just come for meals?

Him: Yes that’s what is happening, the parents send their kids to the school at the meal time and they the kids go back in the fields to work again. So the purpose is being defeated here.

Me: But that used to happen before also. I mean that kids helped their parents in the fields and not coming to schools

Him: No prior to MDM parents used to send their kids with the sole purpose of learning and the kids learned with interest also. But now MDM has changed the mentality. Before the parents educated their kids with the hope that a little education will help their kids earn more, now it has become - send kids so that they can eat...

Before I could ask something else I got interrupted. But the message is clear here. Especially for schools where there are only 2-3 employees if they are busy entire day keeping accounts how they will be do their basic duty - imparting education. Later on I talked to him again and in summary he said, "Before MDM also parents were able to feed their kids. Many people think that MDM was implemented because kids did not have enough to eat. It is not so. It was implemented to lure the kids to school and it has failed its purpose. It is only luring kids to eat"

According to a survey done in 2010 some of the cons of the program came forward:

  1. The meals provided at many places are not fit for consumption
  2. Teachers waste 3 hours everyday cooking and preparing meals
  3. Students waste 10 hours a week washing and cleaning dishes
  4. 75% of the schools running MDM program has no availability of drinking water facility
  5. Many schools do not receive adequate rations and teachers have to spend money to feed the kids
  6. Shortage of infrastructure and manpower
  7. The one good thing that all the respondents agreed upon was that it was a social leveler and was eroding the boundaries created by caste and religions.

So once again I wonder why a thorough analysis of any policy is not done before it is implemented. Why a pilot project is not run before actual implementation. I know only the policy makers can answer this question. But one thing is sure that the program which was supposed to be a boon in the field of education has become a curse - The "MDM" curse. Government needs to provide better infrastructure and better way of implementing such a good program.

Genie Signing off

P.S. This is sequel to the blog - A Senseless "G" - 'Grading' -Part 1