Who Cares: Not just about Mid-day Meals

25 Jul

How does one talk about education this week?

Does one start by talking about the children who died after eating a school meal in Bihar? Or in other places?

And ask what caused the horror – Ignorance? Lack of education? Poor hygiene? Carelessness? Callousness? Stupidity? Lack of resources?

All of the above?

How is that for a multiple choice question? The right answer gets you a promotion to the next level. Where you will meet others like you – people who have the answers to this, but also know that this will not change soon.

Your peers here will wring their hands and agonise over these questions…

What can be done? Who is responsible? Who can be held accountable? How can we ensure it never happens again? And the brave ones here will be asking – what can we do? Some, on the sidelines, and I insist on pushing them to the sidelines, will seek to gain political mileage out of this. They may be right, but their answers are incidental to the issue.

When there are answers to these questions, and remember – this was not multiple choice, we will be promoted again.

To the next level, where we delusional beings think we can actually make things better. Some of us will write. Others will conduct surveys and studies. Some will create ways to share the knowledge that will keep us safe. Others will bid for funds to create training workshops – independently or with the government. Drops in the ocean. Some will work, most areas will go uncovered. Those who manage to do something concrete would have crossed one more level.

But even when you pass all those levels, one thing will be clear – it was not enough.

Does that mean it was futile? On the contrary, it needs more.

Where schools can poison their children, where girls get raped within school compounds, where school buses kill children, where toilets are kept from students, where water itself is scarce – more scarce than teachers in attendance – all that holds things together is determined hope.

Where step by agonising step, things are made better. One teacher at a time. One student at a time. One solar lamp at a time. One electricity connection – that is backed up by solar panels – that charges the mobile phone – that receives the learning materials – that is shared by the community – at a time. Baby steps.

Yes, I agree with those of you who say – it is not enough.

It is frustrating to witness the baby steps – when so many miles need to be crossed. We revert to medieval solutions. The accused rapists get beaten up by vigilantes, and school principals receive a diktat to taste the food fed to children before giving it to them. No systemic solutions.

Worse, no expectation of a duty of care.

Who cares?

Who cared that the children had died?

Not just for this incident, all over, all the time – who cares?

Who cares that they were underfed, and needed the food to survive? Who cares where the food came from? Who cares whether the food was washed or not? Who cares where it was stored? Who cares whether pesticides were allowed to enter the food chain? Who cares to train the cook? Or give them a clean place to chop, store, cook and serve? Who cared that regularly rats and lizards fell into the food? Rats and lizards and insects – how utterly deprived of all senses does one have to be to allow that to happen? Under what circumstances does one live that it is normal to have rats scurrying around food, and dirty water used to prepare the meal. Who cares?

And if there is nobody who cares about life, then why discuss quality of life. Or how to improve health and standards via education. If nobody cares, there is nothing to discuss and do. It is then, the end.


Meeta Sengupta
18 July 2013, 02:41 PM IST



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: