A country is expected to invest in her future generations. How a country provides for her children shall sow the future of the country. I invite you for a peek into the first interaction that the toddlers/kids have with the Government’s build-up for them and what goes into the character building of our future generation. The report on Anganwadi Visit – Whose Children Are They Anyway?
Disclaimer: For all practical purposes, I do not suppose anybody reading this article has had anything to do with Anganwadi at a personal level. Something similar to, most of us knowing about Pratham’s Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) showing dismal standards of education in Government schools all-India, but none of us have a first-hand account of what actually happens there.
What is Anganwadi?
Anganwadi is a part of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the only major national program that addresses the needs of children under the age of six years. It seeks to provide young children with an integrated package of services such as supplementary nutrition, health care and pre-school education.
We have not used any of the Government offered services till now in either the education or the health sector. So, we thought, we might as well try out Anganwadi for our twin daughters and see what good use our taxes are being put to.
We visited three Anganwadi centres in the vicinity of our house and the observations are listed below:
The place: We saw 25-30 children in the first two Anganwadi centres and 10-15 in the third. All crammed into the area of one and a half room, approximately about 600-750 sq ft. Leave aside the place to run and jump. There is no way that the child could have walked 5 steps in any direction without bumping into another child.
The apparatus: Women in-charge of Anganwadi centres did tell us that they have been given some equipment to engage the children and to give them to play with. But, this paraphernalia is limited in nature. They are held liable in case of breakage. So, to be on the safer side, they do not bring it out.
The participants: Anganwadi is for children up to 6 years of age. What we saw was a majority of children, if not all, below 3 years. We were told that parents, for their children above 3 years, put them in private schools. The parents do this so that their children are ready for their schooling straight away and get a head start. So, actually, apart from children who cannot take care of themselves there are no other children.
The electricity connection: We were told that Government runs Anganwadi centres on rent. Government keeps the rent to the minimum and pass on the responsibility of electricity to the landlord. Hence, there were actually no lights or fans in any of the three Anganwadi centres we visited. The landlords had removed the electricity connection.
The Swachh Bharat connect: All the three centres did have wash-room. But, you can imagine the chaos when there are 2-3 adults for 30 children who need assistance to visit the washroom. In fact, when we visited the first centre, what welcomed us was the sight of a 3-year-old girl doing pee outside the room, in the open.
The timings: On paper, Anganwadi centres are open from 9 am to 4 pm. On the ground, children come at the time when food is disbursed or one-two hours prior to that. They take food and go back home unless their parents are too busy to come and pick them up. So, either it is jam-packed or there is mostly nobody around. It is like a place to collect food and hang around for some time.
The teachers: I do not have any idea about the qualifications of Anganwadi in-charge so I will stay clear of it. What was visible was 1-2 women remaining seated, as there was not much place to walk, and trying hard to control the situation of 25-30 children. One woman was deputed to take care of the food to avoid raids from the children. The result – a hapless lady surrounded by a crowd of hyperactive children. There are no teachers, as such, practically not possible.
The place to sleep: There are no fans and no dedicated place to snooze; apart from children all around.
Pre-school education: Pre-school education is a stated objective of Anganwadi. However, the practical aspects governing the set-up makes this completely redundant. One cannot expect anything in an adult:child ratio of 1:30 at worst or 1:15 at best.
At a personal level, we did intend to enrol our twin daughters in the Anganwadi. But we developed cold feet seeing the ground reality.
At a citizen level, it was gut-wrenching to see the environment that the majority of our future generations get exposed to.
ASER report, for that matter any social audit, will keep showing up dysfunctional Government schools and their abysmal results. However, the rot starts at the very bottom. The foundation that gets built in the Anganwadi is so weak that no character of substance can ever come out of it.
At Anganwadi, the KRAs / KPIs are limited to physical attributes of some morsels of food getting handed over to a child who could not have afforded otherwise. Our aim is limited to survival; it nowhere talks about development / fulfilment of one’s potential / getting prosperous.
At a macro level, the blessed are those who do not have to enlist the support from the Government machinery. We are blissfully unaware of the dreadful state of delivery from the Government.
Coming back to Anganwadi: The parents send their child to Anganwadi in the hope for better exposure, and the Anganwadi has nothing to offer other than a meal to keep the child alive.
Whose children are they anyway?
PS: The observations mentioned above are taken from the two articles – http://mydaughtersandme.com/anganwadi-visit-childs-perspective/ and http://mydaughtersandme.com/anganwadi-visit-childs-perspective-2/