Shalu, an 8-year-old, had the privilege of being enrolled into her nearest government school. Though the focus was more on the free food being given, it came with the additional benefit of education as well. But that was not all. Recurrently falling sick made her miss school on a regular basis. And as of today, she has dropped out of school and is sitting at home, deprived of education and a regular source of one meal a day.
School has been the face of not just education, but building a good foundation for the future. If that is the case then what does it bring forth, if it does not have, what is integral to it? I’m talking about the students. India like any other developing country has been working on this matter, along with the rest. And needless to say, it has come a long way.
Shalu was one of the thousands of children who happened to be affected by anemia even before she started to do things by herself. But thanks to the government, and schemes like National Nutritional Anemia Prophylaxis Program, they had her covered by way of supply of medicine. As mentioned before, with the Midday meal scheme brought in full swing, it was an incentive for her family to put her through school. Having started off being anemic, the impact of medicines was short-lived owing to irregularities in the intake. And so as she grew, more ailments came her way.
Being a developing country, there is a lot that needs to be taken care of. The government for its part has aided in the process by coming up with various schemes and strategies over the course of time in the form of Five-year plans. These can be seen from the various schemes that come have come into place ever since then. However, meeting the planned outcome might still be a milestone yet to be achieved. There are various factors contributing to the same. Having said that, the idea is to bridge the gap. Many more children like Shalu are yet to join the school. So why not bring in the foundation of a healthy lifestyle right where they come seeking the foundation of a better future?
In fact, one of the publications issued by the WHO on Health Promoting Schools says, ‘The evidence from systematic reviews in high-income countries shows that the HPS approach can contribute to improving children’s health by reducing the risk factors for NCDs. In low- and middle-income countries, school-based interventions have been successfully implemented to prevent communicable diseases and other health problems, such as worm infection, malaria, diarrhea, iron deficiency, malnutrition, and oral diseases, over the past 20 years.’
Well, our country is not far behind. The most recent addition, School Health Programme an initiative under AYUSHMAN BHARAT looks forward to the same goal. A collaboration of the Ministry of HRD and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare works on the idea of a comprehensive healthcare program. Unlike other programs so far, it builds on the idea of Ownership, Sustainability, Scalability, capacity building and most importantly Convergence. It is exactly what was needed to bridge the gap that was created by previous schemes.
That leaves us with whether we want to make it just another scheme which worked for a while and was never seen or make it THE scheme which changed the face of the country and its outlook. With the idea of Ownership, it puts the ball into the hands of the key stakeholders of the educational institutions. Now we decide the future of these kids. So what do we have for them?
For a start, Sharp Ngo along with HCL Foundation has taken a small step towards the same. The rest is yet to happen!
Romina Joseph, SHARP NGO