Akshara’s efforts to better Anganwadis in North Karnataka

Steady Progress

The team reports state that steady progress is being made in the 109 anganwadis in Hubli and Dharwad in Akshara’s model anganwadi programme. Their efforts continue without let up every month, with regular monitoring visits, handholding of anganwadi workers, meetings with Bal Vikas Samithis and parents, and community interactions, and all this is having an impact. The community is more responsive and anganwadis are performing better.

“Akshara Always Comes up with New and Innovative Ideas”

The notable event of the year was the training. Akshara’s resource group trained Supervisors of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in the model anganwadi curriculum and LEGO activities. As Master Resource Persons, the Supervisors cascaded the training to all 109 anganwadi workers.

The team observed that the cooperation and participation of anganwadi workers was quite exemplary. But Supervisors who were the master trainers were busy with official work and the Akshara team had to put in additional effort to see the training through.

Day One opened with a discussion. Anganwadi workers were invited to talk about their experiences with the programme’s teaching-learning material (TLM) and how Akshara’s intervention was influencing them in their way of working. Most of the anganwadi workers said that they were reporting to work on time. Earlier, they used to be apprehensive of the Akshara team, but now they look on them as friends who unfailingly support them. This led to a frank interaction. The training team then conducted group activities as specified in Akshara’s Model Anganwadi Training Manual.

Day Two was all about LEGO – training in LEGO activities.  Anganwadi workers participated like little children, said the team. They prepared models and created scenes that reflected the concept of preschool. Everyone had a lot of fun. The team distributed LEGO kits to the anganwadi workers and gave them instructions on how to conduct activities for children in their centres.

Shaila Teminkoppa said “Akshara always comes up with new and innovative ideas. The LEGO kit is very attractive and children will enjoy it.”
Rhanath from Dharwad said “I did not know how to assign corners for different preschool skills or divide the teaching-learning material and facilitate activities for children. Initially, it was difficult, but now it is interesting.”
Shivaleela from Madarmaddi Circle said “Parents and children were attracted by the TLM provided by Akshara, but now everyone will be excited to see LEGO. Children will become regular in attendance.”

Community Interactions
The team held parents’ meetings in anganwadis in the presence of the anganwadi workers to demonstrate by example how to lead such engagements. The team introduced themselves and Akshara’s work. The teaching-learning materials were displayed and the team informed them of its uses in furthering learning. This was a strategy, and it worked – some of the parents came to realize the value of preschool education and ascertained from the anganwadi workers how they use the TLMs in the classroom and requested them to teach their children properly.

Household visits are forums for communication with the community and the team lays down a target every month. Their target was 300 households, and they visited 200, a 67% achievement rate. The message of education is seeping in, the team says.

Bal Vikas Samithis are slowly gearing to their function as community guardians of anganwadis. The team engaged Samithi members, holding 88 meetings, 88% of their target, making them realize their responsibilities towards anganwadis. They also held 5 community meetings and 42 self-help group meetings.

The team notes that their work in the community had to be scaled down in September as they were busy collecting the pre-test answer sheets from anganwadis and involved in the training.

A Room of Their Own

Saroja Patil from Jiddi Oni, Dharwad, has been running her anganwadi in a temple for the last five years. Devotees frequently streamed into the temple, creating a lot of disturbance, distracting the children and making it difficult for Saroja to conduct preschool activities. Akshara’s Cluster Facilitator, Suvarna Guthal, intervened and spoke to Bal Vikas Samithi members and parents.

She took it a level higher and met Shivanna Badvannavar, the Corporator of the area, and explained to him the anganwadi’s acute problem of space. She requested him to provide a room where Saroja could run her anganwadi. Suvarna did not stop there. She followed it up with the Corporator and took community members with her to advance Saroja’s case. Shivanna Badvannavar yielded and allotted a spacious room near the temple for the anganwadi.

Parents are happy, and as for Saroja and the children, they are revelling in a space they can finally call their own. The Department of Women and Child Development, under whose mandate the ICDS runs anganwadis, expressed its appreciation for the efforts put in by the Akshara team.

Generating Impact
Ratna, the Field Coordinator, has been holding regular community meetings in Bengari in HFWTC Circle, an area she is in charge of, and it has been impact-generating on a scale that took the team by pleasant surprise.

One of the days, Bal Vikas Samithi members and a few parents locked up the anganwadi in Bengari because the anganwadi worker and helper always arrived late. The community appealed to them to come on time, failing which they said they would repeat what they had done, lock them out of their anganwadi, and report the matter to higher authorities.

Investing in Early Childhood Education

Usha Ganesh writes about the emergence of Pre-schools and the Pre-school educational content in Karnataka.

Via Searchlight South Asia

Children from poor families are the unfortunate inheritors of poverty – in India, every eighth urban child in the 0-6 years age group stays in slums, as per a report published by the Indian government in 2011. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is critical to help these children begin their climb out of poverty, and yet it receives scant attention in national policies such as the Right to Education Act.
India has the world’s largest integrated program – the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) – that focuses on nutrition, health and education for children. The program covers 48% or 75.7 million children of the total 158.7 million children in the 0-6 age group in India. It is largely implemented through centres called Balwadis and Anganwadis that operate in rural areas as well as urban slums. These centres provide a range of ECCE services such as immunization, health check-ups and monitoring as well as referral services in addition to pre-school education. Given the implementation focus on health and nutrition due to high incidence of malnutrition and its impact on child development, the education component of the program has been found wanting.

The proposed National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy is expected to set some standards for a comprehensive approach towards pre-school interventions. Reports indicate that a thematic ECCE Committee will be initially constituted under the ICDS Mission Steering Group. It will eventually form a National council for ECCE with corresponding State and district level councils to ensure better co-ordination and implementation. In the meanwhile, private sector stakeholders are working to improve the pre-school education experience for children at the BoP. While most initiatives aim to strengthen the Anganwadis though capacity building and curriculum development, a few aim to provide affordable pre-schools for the poor.

Others like Sesame Workshop, Akshara Foundation and the Centre for Learning Resources work in the area of capacity building and training the Anganwadi workers so that they are better empowered to deliver education. Akshara Foundation initially set up their own Balwadis in slums where children could not access the government-run Anganwadis. Over time, they felt it made little sense to work parallel to the system, and they invited the Director of Women and Child Health Department in Bangalore to visit their centres. Says B S Latha Devi, Head – Pre School Programme, “The IAS officer saw the difference in the enthusiasm and interest at our Akshara centres and invited us to work with the State.” Today Akshara Foundation supports Anganwadi workers in over 1700 centres across Bangalore by providing teaching learning material, training and community engagement. It has also developed assessment tools to measure learning outcomes.

Read the entire article here.