Mid-day meals at Panchayat Union Middle School in Veppathangudi have always been a mess. Not only do the matrons serving the food drag large vessels to serve the kids, but the floor also gets dirty in the process.
As meals are cooked on firewood, instead of stoves, the bottoms of the vessel are caked in char.
This, in turn, would dirty the children’s legs and clothes. A group of children from the government school located in Thiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu decided to do something about this situation. The eighth graders were inspired by the simple 4-step formula of ‘Feel-Imagine-Do-Share’ developed by the non-profit Design for Change, which encourages children to solve problems in their communities.
The children called for a meeting to ‘Imagine’ solutions to the problem.
The children brainstormed that they could start a buffet system of serving meals, whereby each student gets up to fill his/her own plate. But this would not be true to the philosophy of the government’s Mid-Day Meal Scheme, which states that, as a rule, children should be seated and have their meals served to them.
One day, while reading an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘The Wooden Bowl’, one of the students had an idea. In the story, the character Anbu created a wooden bowl so that his parents could use it in their old-age to have their meals. It struck the student that they could create a wooden wheel which could be used to serve the mid-day meals. This would ease the matrons’ burden of serving meals as they would no longer have to drag the vessels along or carry them, especially when they were hot. This would also help keep the place tidy and free from char stains!
But how would they implement the ‘Do’ stage of the project?
Under the mentorship of Muthuraj B, the kids designed a vehicle that the matrons could use to pull along the heavy vessels of food. A few parents donated wooden frames to the kids, as well as an iron rod. With the help of the leader of their Parent-Teacher Association, the students – G Stephan, V Preetha, I Shanmugam, V Arivazhagan and M Gurumoorthy – carved out four wheels from the wooden frames. They then created a plywood base which could accommodate the vessel on top of it and attached wheels to its four corners. The iron rod was used to make a handle that could be used to push and pull the vehicle. Then, the kids put the ‘Mid-Day Wheel’ to practice at lunch time.
The matrons expressed their gratitude to the kids for making their job of serving food much easier.
The Headmaster of PUMS also commended the students who shared the project with the elementary education officers. While the Mid-Day Meal Schemes are a wonderful measure by the government to tackle malnutrition and the high rate of school drop-outs, the students express that it would be helpful if a main supply of LPG gas cylinders with stoves could be provided to the government schools in Tamil Nadu. Many of the schools here are still cooking mid-day meals on firewood, they say.
The ‘Mid-Day Wheel’ project was selected among the top 20 stories of change of the year 2017 at the ‘I CAN Awards’. Since 2009, the award ceremony has attracted 14,000 stories of change from school children all over India. The event is organised by Design for Change to recognise children who are making social change in their communities by implementing the 4-step design-thinking formula of ‘Feel-Imagine-Do-Share’.
The prototype was shortlisted in the ‘Easily Replicable’ category to recognise how it can be easily implemented across Mid-Day Meal Schemes.
Mid-Day Meal Schemes in India often face issues of orderliness, cleanliness and time management, with its organisers having to deliver meals to so many children. This simple prototype by the kids of PUMS is a wonderful step towards the serving of meals easier for the helpers in Tamil Nadu. Watch the kids make the ‘Mid-Day Wheel’ in this video:
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