In a first, GB extends free food programme to specialist schools

GILGIT: A free food programme, called the School Meals Programme, was extended to specialist schools attended by differently-abled students across Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), the region’s chief secretary said.

The programme — first such initiative in the region’s history —  was introduced last week with help from the private sector, and will expand to cover the entire picturesque but impoverished region “in a few months’ time”, disclosed Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani.

Since his appointment to the region in April, Wani, a career civil servant from the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) cadre, has begun meal improvement plans to counter stunting in children, held career counselling festivals, launched digital learning initiatives, set up healthcare facilities and hired highly-qualified academics on competitive remuneration packages.

“Hygienic lunch as per nutritional needs of our children was provided to all students. The joy and happiness on their faces were evident,” Wani said. “We believe a full stomach is important for a healthy mind, and it’s our duty to improve learning conditions for our students.”

The chief secretary said that through the initiative, he intended to achieve two core objectives: provision of healthy food to children in one of Pakistan’s most food-insecure regions both to counter poverty and offer quality diets, and stem dropout rates to ensure increasing enrollment in schools.

“The excitement and happiness of the specially-abled children was a breath of fresh air,” he said.

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