How malnourishment is hampering the Right to Education for children?

India will be touching a whopping USD 5 trillion economy in the coming years by generating more business within the country, through avenues such as emerging startups, loan through Mudra Scheme and ease of doing business spanning across industries and verticals. However, alarming facts emerged from the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019 that ranked 117 countries based on hunger; amongst which, India was ranked at the 102nd position and was the lowest-ranked among all the other BRICS nations. GHI rank is calculated based on children who are under 5 years of age and have inadequate weight vis-a-vis their recorded height. There are significant facts supporting the impact of starvation on an education system, wherein underdeveloped minds are unable to access basic education due to the lack of proper infrastructure and brain development. WHO reported that there are 155 million children under the age of five who are underweight for their height and there are around 50 million more, stunted children. Due to their condition and inadequate physical growth they are unable to read till the age of 8 years.

Food Problems

There are a number of indicators leveraging which, we can measure and track progress related to the issue of malnutrition. In order to effectively capture and track progress on hunger within a single metric, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has defined a scoring system termed as Global Hunger Index(GHI). The Global Hunger Index attempts to assess the multidimensional nature of hunger,by combining four key indicators of malnutrition into a single index score. These four indicators are:

  1. Providing education to groups about the importance of the food they eat and empower them to protect their rights to food
  2. Advocating on behalf of the vulnerable communities that experience discrimination against their right to adequate food supply
  3. Providing meaningful interventions to the vulnerable populations’ food security, such as community garden programs
  4. Building coalitions amongst multiple stakeholders to address issues around food security globally, as well as locally

Indian Education system and Food

In order to understand the magnitude of this grave issue, one can look into it at the grass-root level, i.e. the education system. The system that the country currently upholds, is deficient and is not focused on understanding what we eat and in what amount we need to eat. Since what we know and understand comes from textbooks, and lectures; courses dedicated to food and healthcare industry is the very need of the hour. Some courses that are available at various state and private universities are:

B.Tech in Food Technology and Bio-Chemical Engineering: B. Tech in Food Technology and Biochemical Engineering is around the science of food and processes that are involved in food making and production. Food technology and biochemical engineering helps devise solutions to battle situations like deteriorating food security, depleting energy sources etc.

 M.Tech. in Food Process Engineering: M. Tech. Food Process Engineering is a 2 year post graduate course which educate students with the principles of different aspects of food, with a specialization in the domain of food process engineering.

B.Sc in Food Science and Nutrition: B.Sc. Food Science and Nutrition is a 3-year undergraduate program. The eligibility is 10+2 examination in any relevant stream  such as Arts/Science/Commerce or any equivalent examination with an aggregate score of 45% marks and above, from a reputed university listed under UGC/AIU. 

Certificate Course in Food and Nutrition:

The National Food Security Act provide significant options to pregnant mothers, lactating mothers who has children between 6 months and 14 months to secure access to nutritious food. IGNOU is providing the course with a duration of 6 months to two years. It is normally supposed that provision of proper nourishment is mainly a question of income.

Nutrition and Health: Micronutrients and Malnutrition:

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2019 stated that 1 in 3 children under 5 years of age are undernourished or overweight. Proper food supplementation and diet is necessary as it can impact our current and future health.

Bridging the gap

The race to the finish line requires a healthy body, not just a developed minds. A study reveals that there are approximately 516.5 million malnourished individuals living in the Asia Pacific region and about 239 million malnourished individuals living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, there are 821.6 million people that are considered undernourished or starving.

By Prashant Agarwal is the president of Narayan Seva Sansthan, a non-profit organization serving differently able and underprivileged individuals.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, and opinions of EducationWorld.

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