First up, here is a fact based on authentic statistics & reports – “The number of children attending primary school in the Indian education system makes it the second largest education system in the world next only to China.”
Dr J. Larry Brown, Tufts University, had once said “By subjecting children to hunger, we rob them of their God-given potential. We then deliver them to the schools with one arm tied behind their backs and expect teachers to perform an often-impossible task. This, in turn, results in the waste of billions of dollars we invest in the education of our children because hunger prevents them from getting full value of their educational experience.”
The Global School Feeding Report of the United Nation’s World Food Program has endorsed that: “School feeding programs often double enrollment within a year and can produce a 40 percent improvement in academic performance in just two years. Children who take part in such programs stay in school longer.”
What the world should know and appreciate about TAPF
It is a proven fact for most parts of the world till date that a wholesome meal continues to be the most powerful incentive for children to come to schools (increasing enrolment), retaining them in schools (reducing dropouts)and helping them to perform better in schools (effective learning experience). Documented evidence in different states of the country show that cooked mid-day meal programs have been most effective in promoting and fostering primary and secondary education in rural India. Playing a huge role in this direction is the multi-award winning venture affliated to Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON Bangalore – The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF).
The Akshaya Patra Foundation became functional in the year 2000 to address two of the most immediate challenges of India - hunger and education by providing unlimited, wholesome food to attract children to schools, retain them and then ultimately focus on children’s holistic development.
The vision statement it imbibed was “No child in India should be hungry and hunger should not be an obstacle to education.” It greatly professes the philosophy that feeding an hungry child is not charity but the responsibility of everyone in the society. Much in synchrony with Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-acharya of ISKCON’s desire that “no one should remain hungry within a 10 km radius of a ISKCON temple”, it has far-exceeded this boundary set by the great acharya by targetting children – the future citizens of our nation. I can visualize what would be the quality of these bright stars who will emerge out as responsible citizens who have been bred with a steady diet of high-quality food for body & the soul.
Under the able guidance of the Chairman Madhupandita Dasa & Vice-Chairman Chanchalapathi Dasa & a group of good samaritans, the program started in a humble way in the year 2000 serving 1500 children in five schools in Bangalore. Currently it is feeding more than 1.2 million children!!! Yes of course it is subsidized by the government which is a partner in this endeavor thus marking a stamp of an authentic nation-building humanitarian work. In fact I go to the extent of saying that the NGO called TAPF is doing what the Government had to do in the first place
What distinguishes Akshaya Patra from other mid-day meal programs preceding it, is the flexibility and creativity with which the program has been conceived and executed. Where the environment is conducive, the program has incorporated a centralized approach, backed by technology-driven processes. In other situations, it has adopted a de-centralized mode of operations, to cater to the needs of the local community. Whatever be the approach, the Foundation ensures that it can serve the needs of the target audience in the most dignified, cost-efficient manner.
Dr Jagadeesh TG
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