This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by 101reporters. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

This IAS Officer Has A Brilliant But Simple Solution To Malnutrition In A UP School

More from 101reporters

By Saurabh Sharma and Sumit Sharma for Youth Ki Awaaz:

With its count of undernourished and malnourished children, the Government Senior Secondary School in Kanpur Dehat, a district in the Kanpur City of Uttar Pradesh was clearly not benefiting from the midday meal scheme. There were rising cases of malnutrition.

IAS officer Apurva Dubey, then newly posted in the district, immediately recognised the problem. She decided it was time to transform the scheme from a well-meaning one to a well-executed one.

The 27-year-old 2012-batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre came up with a brilliant, yet simple solution: grow a kitchen garden. To be housed in the school compound itself, the vegetables grown would enrich the daily midday meals. There was a half-acre vacant lot just waiting to sprout green. The principal and the teachers were skeptical at first. None of the IAS officers who had preceded Apurva had suggested this. However, in a few months, her efforts yielded results. The school got its first kitchen garden, and the children got nutritious midday meals every day. The school, which according to its principal Sagira Aamna had nine malnourished students before the kitchen garden sprung up, does not have a single malnourished child on its rolls anymore.

img-20161128-wa0010
Apurva Dubey in her office in Bareilly.

Just when things were looking great, the state government struck. Apurva was transferred to Bareilly after her six month stint. And the school’s kitchen garden wilted.

The Grim Reality

Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of malnourished and severely malnourished children (about 58 lakh) in the country, according to the government’s own submission in Parliament in May 2016. According to the World Bank, child malnutrition in India is “extraordinarily high”, worse than in sub-Saharan countries.

On paper, midday meal scheme is a veritable savior. The ground reality is often exasperating, and definitely not achieving its purpose. There have been instances of frogs and lizards found in meals served in some schools, poisoning the food and leaving children sick.

This March itself, 120 children were taken ill after having their midday meal at a school in UP. In 2014, around 90 school children in Agra district fell ill after they were fed adulterated milk.

Existing Schemes

A host of NGOs are in the field working to improve the situation, especially after the state government launched the State Nutrition Mission in November 2014.

Nearly Rs 3,000 crore was allocated to Uttar Pradesh under the Integrated Child Development Services scheme, but 70% of that money was spent on administrative expenses, only 30% going towards providing nourishment to malnourished kids.

Experts say that small and simple initiatives like that of Dubey go further in achieving desired results than spending crores of rupees on unsuitable and unsustainable programmes.

Dubey’s success story, even if it seems to have been nipped in the bud, demonstrates that all it takes to foster change is the will to initiate change.

By involving school children and school staff, the school kitchen garden not only addressed the root cause of malnourishment but also injected a sort of enthusiasm that was previously absent, said Vinod Yadav of Bharat Abhyudaya Foundation (BAF), a not-for-profit organisation involved in elementary education reform in Uttar Pradesh.

The significance of the initiative is not restricted to solving the problem of malnutrition. Just ask Rani Kushwaha. A class 3 student, she spoke of her gardening experience. “It was kind of fun seeing vegetables grow and plucking them. I also learnt the English names of the vegetables!” said Rani.

Samina Bano, a Right to Education activist and the chairperson of BAF, told YKA that she found the idea of kitchen garden in schools “simply great, and out of the box”. She said it would be wonderful if the idea was implemented across the country.

Committed To Education

For Dubey, the success of the initiative was a reward in itself. She told YKA she thinks the fact that students of these schools got to know her name mattered the most for her. She added that she herself had studied in a government school in Arunachal Pradesh and had always taken a keen interest in the upliftment of government schools.

In terms of challenges, the caretaker of the school kitchen garden was employed under MNREGA, so there was no need to pitch a new project to seek finances, Dubey said. The weather was the only unpredictable factor, she said, but even fickle weather could not stop the school kitchen garden from producing a good 35 kilo of vegetables in the first cycle itself!

Back To Square One

The tumult that marks the run-up to next year’s assembly elections in UP has left Dubey with no time to implement the idea in Bareilly, where she’s the sub-divisional magistrate, currently.

What is criminal, however, is that Kanpur Dehat appears to have shelved her programme. The Gram Pradhan, who was appointed caretaker of the school kitchen garden, has stopped overseeing it. The caretaker has not been paid his salary ever since Dubey left.

Arif, the man hired for the job, told YKA that he stopped working three months ago.

Ram Sanehi, the parent of a class III student of the school, Nihal, told YKA that children were a happy lot and showed interest in going to school when Dubey was around, and they were getting midday meals that were nutritious. That’s not the case anymore, he said.

While Dubey’s story demonstrates that many young IAS officers like her are working hard to bring about change in Uttar Pradesh, the State’s inability to sustain projects like hers could ensure that things go back to their old, broken ways.

“We are requesting the government to take up the (kitchen garden) programme on a pilot basis so that it can be implemented across the state,” hopes Yadav. Now it is up to the government alone to make sure this happens.

About the author: Saurabh Sharma is a Lucknow-based independent reporter. Sumit Sharma is Kanpur-based independent reporter. Both are members of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.

More from 101reporters

Similar Posts

By pratyush prashant

By Chiranshu Sihag

By Deepak yadav

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below