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BACK-A-THON: Pushing back illiteracy

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By Srishti Jaswal

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People across 23 cities in India walked backwards to spread awareness, and to empower, aid and protect the vulnerable children living in shelter homes in an event called ‘Back- A- Thon’ on Sunday, September 13. The event, which was more of a social gathering than a sporting affair, was hosted nationally by a non-profit organization, Make a Difference (MAD).

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People participated in this atypical marathon by walking backwards in a uniform fashion. The event was held with the agenda of connecting the society to its children by sensitizing the community about the harsh conditions they faced in shelter homes.

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Shelter homes across the country face multiple challenges ranging from financial crunches and staff quality to lack of emotional support for children. Along with these, the stigmatization of the vulnerability of children and shelter homes causes additional stress to this already precarious situation. Even the budget for child related schemes in the union budget 2015-2016 has dropped by a massive 29 per cent. It is with the aim of raising awareness about these issues, that MAD held ‘Back-A-Thon’ across 23 cities in India.

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MAD tries to promote the importance of literacy for individuals, community and society. Literacy is a term that is understood by all without realizing that it is a complex, dynamic and lifelong intellectual process of gaining knowledge and interpreting it. Children living in shelter homes need support and care to help them in this world.

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All over India, nearly 11,892 people across the nation turned up for the event and walked backwards. Coimbatore had maximum participation of 1,500 people, Delhi and Vizag both had 800 and above participants, Chandigarh had 700 and Mumbai had 489 participants walking backwards for the cause.

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“Seven hundred is a huge number. It was so over whelming to see such a splendid response of the people in the wee hours of the morning. This is just self-explanatory to say that the society is all out to bring in the change. It wants to push the evils backwards. We just need to aware the community about it. Events like these help us do better. People are ready to Make a Difference”, says Rimjhim Bathla, PR fellow at Make a Difference, Chandigarh.

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On being asked why people were walking backwards, Shaurya, a student of St Jones Chandigarh, replied, “We are pushing illiteracy backwards.”

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‘Back-A-Thon’ attracted active participation from all sections of society; one could see students, working class, elderly people and even people from slums and shelter homes.

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‘Back-A-Thon’ was able to create an impact in the minds of thousands of people throughout the nation.

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The number of people who turned up for ‘Back-a Thon’ in each city:

  • COIMBATORE : 1500
  • TRIVANDRUM : 647
  • KOLKATA : 423
  • MYSORE : 500
  • VIJAYAWADA : 650
  • BHOPAL : 452
  • LUCKNOW 330
  • AHEMDABAD : 300
  • VELLORE : 350+
  • PUNE : 370+
  • DEHRADUN: 576
  • DELHI: 800+
  • COCHIN: 200+
  • VIZAG: 800+
  • MUMBAI: 489
  • BANGALORE: 780+
  • GUNTUR: 500+
  • KOLKATA : 370
  • GWALIOR : 900+
  • CHENNAI : 250+
  • COCHIN : 200+
  • HYDRABAD : 500+
  • CHANDIGARH : 700

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Study Reveals Midday Meals in School Improves Child’s Scores and Skills

The effect of nutrition appears to be cumulative, seen over time.

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Food
Food provided to children during Midday Meal. Pixabay

Primary school children who ate midday meals over an extended period were shown to have significantly better learning outcomes, according to researchers of Indian-origin.

The researchers, in the study published in the Journal of Development Economics, suggest a powerful connection between nutrition and education.

Professors Rajshri Jayaraman from ESMT Berlin in Germany and Tanika Chakraborty from the Indian Institute of Technology in India studied the effects of India’s midday meal scheme – the world’s largest free school lunch programme – feeding over 120 million children every day.

midday meal
Children showed an improvement of nine per cent for maths test scores. Pixabay

The study showed that children with up to five years of midday meals had reading test scores that are 18 per cent higher than those of students with less than a year of school lunches.

In addition, they showed an improvement of nine per cent for maths test scores.

“The effect of nutrition appears to be cumulative, seen over time. Previous studies have varied between two weeks and two years, and failed to capture the important impact. Our research shows that the real benefit of school lunches was seen in children exposed for two to five years,” said Jayaraman.

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For the study, the researchers used data from nearly 600 rural districts in India, covering over 200,000 households.

In 2017, World Food Programme implemented or supported school feeding programmes for 18.3 million children in 71 countries.(IANS)