Located 323 km away from Dehradun, lies a lesser known district known as ‘Bageshwar’ and inside that little district is a block known as ‘Kapkote, my home for the next year or so.’ Kapkote is beautiful cheerful town, surrounded by vast mountains and paddy fields.
In the morning the streets are flooded with students of all ages, with well ironed uniforms, girls with neatly braided hair laced with ribbons as their parents drop them off to the nearest road where their trek to school begins.
In the midst of this organized chaos, we fellows from the city get an opportunity to teach at some of these schools.
Currently Kaivalya Education Foundations is working with 87 schools in Kapkote Block, Bageshwar Uttarakhand, along with three major sub locations: Shama, Reema and Supi. In Kapkote, we are nine fellows in total, each managing four to five schools.
Understanding the Geography of the Mountain State
In Uttarakhand there’s a rule that there has to be a primary school every 3 km, and a High School every 5 km. These schools are tucked behind the majestic Himalayas with breathtaking views. To reach these schools you either take public transport, trek, scooty. Every minute teaching at schools located within the mountain communities is worth it.
In Kaivalya, schools are categorized into three domains: Sugam (Roadside school) ,Durgam( scooty needed & 20 minute trek) and Ati Durgam ( far away takes around an hour to reach, trek of more than hour or two.
Why was the Mid Day Meal Scheme introduced?
As I began my journey teaching at some of these schools, located in the remotest location possible, with no network, graveled roads, there was one thing that all the schools had in common It was the : The Mid Day Meal.
Started by the government in 1995, government noticed that despite the ‘Right to Free and Fair Education Act,’ there were massive school dropouts. Intrigued by this, teachers started to notice the pattern of mass dropouts and concluded there were seasonal as their parents were mostly hired labor. On receiving this new exciting information the government decided to implement the mid-day meal scheme all over the country.
In the past two months I have visited and taught at Model Kapkote, Lamabagar, and Pothing where in mid-day meal has been implemented along with the rest of the 87 schools.
Challenges of bad road
To get a rough idea of the success of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in Uttarakhand, allow me to narrate my own experience reaching one of my Durgam schools. Pothing, located 18 km( 45 – 55 minutes ride) away from Kapkote. The changing climate, has led to terrible landslide’s leaving the road damaged that the scooter in no position to climb up.
Parking the scooty next to an electric pole, the trek lasts for 40 minutes through absolute wilderness and then through a community. The Government Primary School Pothing is located at one end of the mountain.
The community and the school don’t get along well hence the school doesn’t have a water connection. Despite of that setback, accompanied by the remotest the place present, the cooks known as ‘Bhojan Mata’ or’ Bhojan Pittas’ present food to the ever deserving students.
The Mid Day meals are usually served between 10 to 11 am, followed by an elaborate ceremony with students singing on top of their lungs either traditional Kumauni songs, multiplication tables, English nursery rhymes or patriotic Hindi songs.
After which, everybody eats together. The menu of the mid-day meal is fixed which ensures every student receives a balanced diet.
The budgeting of the meals are such that the Primary school as well as the Junior Primary school receive 4.48 Rupees from the Central and State Government per child per day.
Once the meal is done, the enthusiastic students get up wash their plates, glasses and up them back in the kitchen. After which they play a solid round of Kabbadi, In out (where they jump in and out catching hands) with their faces beaming with joy playing in the scorching heat.
There’s no better way to conclude the success of the mid day meal as well as the enthusiasm of the students other than quote Friedrich Nietzsche a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet :
“There is an innocence in admiration; it is found in those to whom it has never yet occurred that they, too, might be admired someday.”