Yangyel Lhaden

Ngawang Sherub, a Class-V student of Yangchengatshel Middle Secondary School (YMSS) in Thimphu comes running when he sees his mother coming home with a heavy-looking carton box. Excited, he pesters his mother with questions. He wants to know what’s in the box.

Five mothers Thursday received school feeding take-home ration initiated by the education ministry in collaboration with World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). A package contains fortified rice, lentils, masoor daal, chickpeas, and fortified oil. Soaps and sanitary pads are also provided.

School feeding take-home ration is the ministry’s initiative to ensure that children meet daily dietary and nutritional requirements as schools remain closed due to Covid-19.

The school used to provide three meals to boarding students and two meals a day for day scholars.

Education Minister said that the initiative was to look after the needs of some children. “It is our responsibility to groom and lay solid foundation for children starting from their health for a brighter future of the county,” Lyonpo said.

Further to that, he said that the food and essential items were different from those available in the market. “Fortified rice and oil contain essential micro-nutrient such as vitamins and minerals to improve nutritional quality of food. This will help children’s growth, immunity and cognitive development.”

The school has identified 55 students who are eligible to receive school feeding take-home ration. The programme is expected to benefit over 10,000 students across the country.

Rinzin Wangmo, Ngawang Sherub’s mother, said, “I was going to surprise my son and told him I was going for a meeting at the school.”

Rinzin Wangmo received the call one day from her son’s teacher. She was told that her son was among the students who would receive the ration. After her husband went to jail, Rinzin Wangmo became the family’s sole provider. She supports her five children with the little income from weaving.

“We are always short of money but I have never let my children go hungry,” Rinzin Wangmo said. She buys food and essential items on account and is always in the red.

Dawa Zangmo, a mother of two, has pretty much the same story to tell. The ministry’s initiative has already eased the burden of eking out a living in difficult circumstances.

Sonam Zangmo is a single mother. She has three children, two from her first husband and one from her second husband. She weaves to provide for the family. She said the school feeding take-home ration came as a big relief.

Pema Yangchen, a Class-VI student, was eager to open the package that came home for his brother. She is not eligible to receive take-home ration yet, but soon she will.

“I will get my share of ration soon. For now, we will share,” she said. Their mother, Sangay Lhamo, said that her daughter had been curious since yesterday. She calls the package magic box. “Today we will eat dinner from the magic box!”