Gyeongsang parents rally over meals

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Gyeongsang parents rally over meals

The end of the free school meal program in South Gyeongsang has led some parents to refuse to pay for their children’s lunches or send them to school altogether.

The parents associations of three elementary schools in Hadong County alerted the local education office on Friday that if it required students to pay for their own school meals, they would not pay at all, according to the South Gyeongsang Office of Education and a civic group that supports the free school meal program.

There are 32 schools in the county, and it is feared that the opposition at those three schools could influence the other schools in the area.

South Gyeongsang became the first province in the nation to withdraw the free meal program last month after its provincial education office announced that it would halt the program due to a lack of funding.

Some parents in Hamyang and Haman Counties and Tongyeong have reportedly discussed refusing to pay for school meals and providing home-made lunch boxes for their children instead.

At Ssanggye Elementary School in Hadong County, almost all parents refused to send their children to school last Friday in protest against the end of the free meal program. Parents there said they will not send their children to school on Fridays over the next three weeks.

Such strong opposition is expected to have an impact on the education office and schools’ financial states.

An official from the South Gyeongsang Office of Education said the moves by some parents could lead to an increase in the cost of school meals.

“The price of each meal provided in rural areas is higher than in urban places,” the official said.

“If 30 to 40 percent of students refuse to pay in a small school with a maximum of 100 students, it could result in ceasing to serve other students, as that would raise the unit price for each meal.”

Additional campaigns against the end of the free meal program are scheduled to take place today in a number of schools across South Gyeongsang.

BY WE SUNG-WOOK [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]

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