Punjab: Mid-day meal scheme lacks enthusiasm

Mid-day meal scheme in rural areas of Punjab has failed to achieve the goal of universalisation of elementary education as prescribed by the UN Millennium Development Goals (2000) and followed by The Indian government

The total enrollment of selected schools belonging to three districts, namely, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, and Gurdaspur Districts of Rural Punjab was 33085 during the base year (average of 2007 to 2009). This enrollment declined to 31667 during the current year (average of 2010-12). Almost similar decline with varying degree was noticed in all the three selected districts.

However, the decline in enrollment of girls' students was slightly more than their boys' counterpart. Moreover, the enrollment in primary standard of the selected districts of rural Punjab has declined by 2.35 per cent, which is attributed to the bogus admission made in the base period.

In upper primary section, base year enrollment was 10583 and current year enrollment was 11124. However, the enrollment in the upper primary standard has shown an improvement (the percentage change in the enrollment was 105.11). These facts are revealed from in-depth analysis under taken by Dr Gursharan Singh Kainth of Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies.

The study is restricted to Majha region of rural areas of Punjab consisting of three districts, namely, Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran and a part of the bigger project sponsored by Indian Council of Social Sciences Research.

Another salient feature of the analysis is that a lion share of the enrollment at the elementary schools was claimed by the schedule caste (SC) and schedule tribes (ST), their percentage being 69.36 per cent. In addition, 17.66 per cent belong to Other Backward Categories (OBCs).

Apparently, the government schools are dominated by the reserved categories students due to obvious reason. The question arises: Why the other categories parents did not sent their students to these government schools. This needs a thorough examination. In almost all the schools there was shortage of teaching staff because of unplanned opening of elementary schools in the rural areas.

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