– Reshma Ravishanker
In a case of gender stereotyping of tasks, girl children enrolled in government-run schools across Karnataka are being asked to clean up after the mid-day lunch, a study has found. With 30 percent of schools surveyed having no Ayahs (cleaning staff), the girl children in higher classes were asked to clean after the mid-day meals.
A report, ‘Evaluation of the Impact of Mid-day Meals Schemes in Karnataka (2016-17)’, of the Karnataka Evaluation Authority under the Department of Planning, Programme Monitoring and Statistics was submitted to the Karnataka government on February 2021.
The survey found that in 66.21 percent of government schools where mid-day meals were served, students cleaned the dining area or utensils. Describing it “sex-typing”, the report says that in most of the schools, it was the girl students who were assigned cleaning tasks.
As many as 5,158 students from 510 schools in 34 educational districts in Karnataka, 2,621 parents, 10 non-government organizations and 76 educational officers were interviewed for the survey.
“Students usually have lunch in the portico of the school or classrooms. It was brought to our notice that in some government schools, girl students from class VI and above have been asked to clean up after meals. This is gender bias,” said Prof A S Seetharamu, principal investigator of the survey and a former professor of education at the Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru.
The report also highlighted other aspects including availability of cookware, supply of milk and kitchen gardens. Seetharamu said that experts who conducted the survey have recommended that the government consider giving Rs 200 per month to the Ayahs (cleaning staff) or the cook and entrust them the task of cleaning to “lift the burden off students’ shoulders”. “The government pays the head cook about Rs 2,500 a month. They can increase this fee and ask them to clean after the mid-day meal is served,” he suggested.
The survey also found that the percentage of students assigned cleaning tasks was particularly high in certain districts of Karnataka. For instance in Mysuru division, 84.29 percent of children cleaned the premises while in Bengaluru it was 72.12 and in Belagavi 53.95 percent and Kalaburagi 50 percent.
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