Change in Mindsets

November 10, 2005; So-called Dalits (untouchables) of Chafamandu VDC-1 in Achham might not have expected to live through a day when they would cook and serve food to upper caste members of their society. But COPE teachers made this shift in the paradigm of social and cultural values.

Balkalyan Primary School established in Chafamandu VDC-1 with the support from COPE has been receiving food support from WFP since 2000. In the beginning, only the so-called upper caste (Brahmin, Chhetri and Thakuri) members of the community assumed the responsibility of cooking food for the school children, majority of whom belonged to the down-trodden section. In 2003, the Food Management Committee of the school was reshuffled by the community itself and almost 60 percent of the members were taken from the Dalits. Obviously, after the reshuffle, Dalit members of the FMC also started cooking mid-day meals but the upper caste members did not allow their children to eat the food.

Teachers of Balkalyan Primary School in Chafamandu VDC-1, Ms. Leela and Ms. Bishna, both from upper caste families, set an example for their students to follow, by taking the food themselves prepared by Dalits. This act of the teachers has proved to be the epitome of their being ?change agent?in the community and food became an important tool to bring about the change. Now, children from all castes sit and eat their meals together in the very school, inculcating the change in them from an early age.