Anganwadi: the “A” of basic childcare and education in India

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Anganwadi: an initiative started by Govt of India in 1975 as a rural mother and child care centre. However with time it seems to have lost its importance in the society instead of the fact that it does play a very critical role in the upbringing of children. Apart from parent education, children learn basic/daily education in anganwadi. Its not only what the kids are taught in anganwadi but they also learn from each other. Some of these learnings they will carry on forward in their life. As a child, I went to anganwadi in my village where I learnt counting numbers, identifying alphabets and put them together to form simple words. My anganwadi was operating in just the hallway of a private house with only a worker and a helper. Luckily the house had a front yard to play. At the end of each day, we were given some food (basically corn meal (panjiri) at that time). From anganwadi, I learnt about punctuality as I was scared from the teacher in case I reached late. Even though I was not regular to aganwadi, still I learnt all the basic education and enjoyed the corn meal.

I haven’t been to any anganwadi in the past 10 years, but I am sure that there are not any major improvements in their condition from that time. Our government claims to be focused on primary school education but in UP from my experience, the primary education in govt schools is the worst. Anganwadi: which although is conceptually different than primary education, fall under the general domain of encouraging new generation to be more literate. Sadly, government seems to spare no time to focus on basic child care facilities. Corruption has seeped deep inside the anganwadi infrastructure which involves fake entry of students and black-marketing of food-supplies. Imagine the chid, who is witnessing all this, what he/she is going to be in future? Most likely they will try to implicate similar acts. My anganwadi was not untouched. We as kids had limited access to books and other study material. Sometimes we were not even given the corn meal but by some magic they had enough to sell it to the nearby private shop or lend it to a friend. This might be one of the reasons that every teenager from rural India knows how to corrupt the system as they have witnessed the tricks from their childhood.

Delhi government is really focused on primary education. The government is building world class schools with all the facilities and providing training from leading institutions to its teachers. Teachers: individuals who mold your future as a teenager. With the focus on primary education, Delhi education minister (Mr. Manish Sisodia) has also started significant work related to anganwadi. A delegation from Delhi Anganwadi Worker-Helper Association met Mr. Sisodia with their demands for better anganwadis. Delhi government has accepted their terms. Any step for better education from any government is always a good step. Five demands from the association were:

  1. Anganwadi workers and helpers gets Rs 5000 and 2500 per month respectively, which is very less as per their work and minimum wage. I completely agree with their demand to raise wages. With the present economic condition and expenses in a metropolitan city such as Delhi, this much salary is not enough and it should be at least according to the minimum wage. This hike will also help to reduce corruption from workers and helpers.
  2. Anganwadis run in a very small space and are situated very close to each other. It is proposed that 3-4 anganwadis can be merged together and can be constructed in a  bigger space. This demand seems valid and affordable. A larger area will provide a better space to children and an opportunity for possible sports. If 3-4 anganwadis are merged, more staff will be available and children can be managed more efficiently.
  3. Anganwadi food has always been in question. 30 years ago, I used to get corn-meal. I don’t know what they are serving these days. A nutrition full food will help children grow healthy.
  4. Anganwadis  play an important role in the development of children. If you had been there, try to remember which anganwadi education is helping you today. Also social workers are crucial in the society. Even some government action or policies are made on the advise of social workers. Inclusion of social workers in anganwadis will provide a better guidance to children.
  5. Anganwadi workers are involved with polio and other government surveys. These people put more than required time to finish this task and most likely are not paid enough. I feel a sense of injustice for them when they indulge in such work and are not paid accordingly or forced to work extra hours. These extra jobs should be allotted based on their availability.

I am glad that the association brought up these points and government gave a positive nod to their suggestions. Special thanks to Manish Sisodia for his efforts towards improving the standards of basic education in the capital. I hope other state governments also make a note on these and take the necessary steps to improve their condition. You can see a copy of letter from the association below.

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A letter to Delhi government education minister


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