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Humiliation by 50 Packs of Sterilized Milk

Posted June. 02, 2005 06:45,   


A few days ago in Dalseo-gu, Daegu. A 15-year-old middle school student Choi felt humiliated.

Since her parents are recipients of the livelihood protection scheme, she is provided with free school lunch. A few days ago, she received a box of 50 packs of 200mL-sterilized milk from the school.

“Sterilized milk is not likely to spoil after considerable time, which is good to have when you’re unable to afford enough fresh milk. I’m well aware of that. However, they handed me the large box of 50 packs of milk in front of everybody, including my friends, which was very humiliating,” said Choi.

Dong-A Ilbo reader P provided the story.

“Choi complained to her parents about her experience at her school when she went home. Her parents felt so bad and vented to me. How can the school treat its students like that?” P sighed. He added that the free milk program was supposed to make children healthier but, as shown in this case, the program seems to fail in protecting the children’s self-respect by making the program appear to be food rationing.

Based on P’s story, Dong-A Ilbo set about nationwide research and concluded that Choi is not alone in this case. The same applies to most schools that do not run a group program to provide milk to their students.

Starting this year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development has expanded the subjects of the free milk program from elementary school students to middle school students from low-income families with an aim to encourage milk consumption and improve the students’ health. The recipients of the program this year are estimated at 280,000 students of elementary schools and middle schools in 16 cities and provinces across the nation.

However, when the number of recipient is small such as 10 to 30 students in Choi’s school, most schools choose to give them the entire milk supply at one time. This is because offering students milk everyday may be bothersome.

Through education offices in cities and provinces, the Education Ministry has instructed schools not to provide more than 15 days worth of sterilized milk at a time. However, this instruction has not been well followed due to practical limitations, such as delivery cost.

An insider of the education office of the southern Daegu area said that home delivery is a principle, but in cases in which the number of recipients is small, milk providers tend to deliver the entire package to the school at one time. “Milk prices already include the cost for delivery, which makes it very hard for us to force home delivery,” according to the insider.

A large milk provider said that for home delivery, the number needs to be at least 200 per section. “It’s very hard to deliver milk to everyone respectively when the number is low. This is why we ask schools to handle the situation,” said the insider.

In some farming and fishing villages, the number of recipients of the free milk program is so small that even non-recipients are forced to order milk at school.

Take B middle school located in Seocheon, South Chungcheong Province for example. As the school notified the nearby milk company agent that the number of recipients was eight, the agent refused to deliver, saying that the number was too small for delivery. Therefore, the school had no choice but to have the non-recipients order their milk at school. Presently, 50 students in B school drink milk and among them, non-recipients pay for it of course.

Kwon-Hyo Lee boriam@donga.com