An ambition against all odds

“I come to school because I get to eat tasty food everyday” says a shy Machala, hiding her face behind a book. The 14-year-old from Mathura village is an unfortunate victim of underdeveloped mental growth. However, her mother, Ramvati, who is the sole bread-winner of the family, is of the idea that her daughter is no different from the rest.

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Aware of the fact that her children get to eat nutritious food every day, Ramvati has always insisted that Machala go to school with her younger sister, Neetu. Ramvati lost her husband a few years ago. She supports the family single-handedly by working as a domestic help in the village. The girls know that their financial situation at home is such that they might have to sleep on an empty stomach a few nights.

Machala is a lively, bright girl with a genuine smile on her face all the time. She probably is not even aware that her mental abilities are slightly different from her friends in school because she does not know how old she is. But going to school every day has influenced her positively. Though shy, she interacts with all her classmates. Her teachers also say that she is a smart kid.

One of the reasons she is able to live a life not very different from other children in her school is because of her determined mother, Ramvati. Cases such as these emphasise the fact that parents, not just in urban areas but in rural India as well, are realising that education is a powerful system and are encouraging their children to be educated. The nutritious and freshly cooked meals from The Akshaya Patra Foundation are a strong reinforcing factor to fuel this change.

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