The Gujarat High Court took suo motu cognizance of the fact that since march, 85% of the parents were not given anything in place of the mid day meals which stopped since schools were closed amidst lockdown. Reports were addressed in a survey conducted by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and the UNICEF Gujarat.
This survey was conducted among 375 low-income parents residing in the urban Ahmedabad between July to September 2020, of which nearly 31 per cent had children attending the Government schools.
The survey says that the inability to pay the fees has led some parents to consider an alternate option of transfers to other schools or even dropping their children out of the school for the year. The following issues were highlighted in the Survey:
- It revealed that about 15 per cent of the parents received rice, wheat and/or pulses in lieu of the mid-day meals.
- Around 30 per cent of the children had not engaged in any formal learning activities since March 2020. [This was highest for those attending the private schools (33 per cent), followed by the Government schools (26 per cent), and those attending the private schools through the RTE mandate (22 per cent).]
- The average income of the sample was around Rs.1,990=00 per month and more than 95 per cent of the households had monthly income less than Rs.4,400=00.
- Despite the State Government’s notices on temporary fee relief, around 54 per cent of the parents had been asked to pay the fees during the months of the lockdown.
- Over 40 per cent of the parents with children in the private schools were unaware of the fee relief.
- Among those asked to pay the fees, more than 50 per cent admitted that it was difficult for them to arrange the required amount and meet the payment deadline.
- Only 54 per cent of the families said that they have a functioning television with cable/DTH.
- Less than 2 per cent had access to a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection and email was used by less than 12 per cent of the families.
The Bench of Justice J. B. Pardiwala and Justice Ilesh J. Vora issued notice to the Principal Secretary, Education Department, Government of Gujarat and Commissioner, Mid-day Meal Schemes, State of Gujarat.
The court asked registry to issue notice to the named respondents.
The matter will now be heard on 5th January.