At a time when a political slugfest is in full-swing in West Bengal over the mid-day meal scheme, the teachers and students of a girls’ school have undertaken a unique initiative to arrange for the supply of vegetables for mid-day meal by producing them at a garden on the roof of the school.
The unique initiative undertaken by the teachers and students of Santoshpur Rishi Aurobindo Balika Vidyapith on the outskirts of Kolkata has received accolades from all sections of the society.
A teacher associated with the school said that this was basically the idea of the school’s headmistress, Sarbani Sen.
“She was really anxious that even in the midst of the paltry budget for the mid-day meal project, how more nutritious and variety of food can be served to the 300 students for whom mid-day meal is cooked in the school every day. Then came the idea of producing a variety of vegetables on the roof of the school. Sen had also insisted that instead of hiring anyone for producing vegetables, the initiative will be handled by the teachers and students of the school,” the teacher said.
So, the initiative started in 2019 on the two roofs of the school premises, the first measuring 500 sq ft, and the second 1,200 sq ft. The garden has been created by first constructing bamboo structures on the roof and then filling them up with soil.
“Mainly, regular varieties like brinjal, ladies’ finger and pointed gourd are produced here. At the same time, seasonal vegetables like carrot, bit, cabbage, tomato and cauliflower are also produced here. The best thing is that we do not use chemical fertilisers to produce these vegetables,” the teacher said.
However, for two years — in 2020 and 2021 — the production of vegetables was stopped because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But after the normal school routine resumed, the production of vegetables also started on a regular basis.
“This initiative has made our school unique,” she said.
Recently, the Union Education Ministry announced that it will send a central field inspection team to West Bengal to review the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme in the state.
It is presumed that the decision to send the central team has been prompted by mushrooming complaints about the unhygienic method of cooking, including the discovery of lizards and cockroaches in the prepared meals. There were reports of school kids falling sick after consuming such contaminated meals.