India (MNN) — Meena Kumari, the school principal responsible for the 23 children in India who died from poison, has been arrested.
She may face charges of murder and criminal conspiracy, according to The Washington Post.
A special investigative team caught up to Kumari after she was in hiding for several days. She fled immediately after the children aged five to 12 started getting sick nearly two weeks ago. Kumari was arrested on her way to a local court to apply for bail, anticipating her imprisonment.
Forensics analyzed the children’s meals of rice, soybeans and potatoes. The oil used to prepare the food was contaminated with a deadly amount of pesticide. Investigators say Kumari purchased the food ingredients from the grocery store owned by her husband. Kumari’s husband is still in hiding.
Around 80 more children were affected by the contaminated food at Navsrijit Primary School.
Dave Stravers with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India says, “What the poisoning of the children in Bihar really illustrates is the really terrible state of public schools in India. In Bihar, only about one-third of the girls and one-half of the boys attend school at all. And those who do go to school will often come to school and find the teachers haven’t shown up or supplies, uniforms, things have been stolen.”
The situation is extremely difficult to change and poverty is a contributing factor. “It’s a pretty hopeless existence for poor people who have to put up with this treatment. And in India, those who are the poorest of the poor are basically taught through social values there that it’s pretty hopeless to even protest because they don’t have the value that middle class or wealthy people have,” says Stravers.
Around half of India’s population can’t read or write and in Bihar it’s more than half. According to Stravers, “Poor parents are not highly motivated to send their children to school—especially the girls who are devalued as opposed to the boys.”
Mission India runs an after-school Children’s Bible Club all year to reach kids with the Gospel message. They train believers to volunteer at the club, and kids get free tutoring, listen to Bible stories, and play games. Around 40 kids attend each Children’s Bible Club.
Stravers says, “This is really a terrible thing to get into the news because it just gives ammunition to people who are saying, ‘What’s the use of sending our children to school? We’re just going to do manual labor our whole lives anyway and there’s really no hope for the future.’ So what we do is provide hope and just the power of Jesus.”
One changed life was an 11-year-old boy from the same state of Bihar. He dropped out of school because of recurring illness. A Bible Club leader with Mission India prayed for the boy and asked him to come to the Children’s Bible Club.
“The little boy felt better right away,” Stravers shares. “He came to the Bible Club, brought his younger brother and sister with him, was encouraged to go back to school, [and] came to know Jesus. Today he and his siblings and his parents are all worshipping in the little church that has started in their village and they have hope for the future.”
Several churches in India are asking Mission India to partner with them for more Children’s Bible Clubs. Mission India’s limited resources prevent them from being able to respond to all the requests. It costs $10 to send one child to the Bible Clubs for a year. Click here to support this ministry.
Stravers asks for your prayers, “That the Lord will empower the workers, protect children, and give children the opportunity to meet Jesus and also the opportunity to improve their lives though education and to be blessed by God in this way.”