The covid-19 pandemic that began in the year 2020 has been a truly challenging phenomenon for the entire world. To prevent the spread of the virus, in India, schools and Anganwadis have remained closed for about one academic year. Some schools with grades 5 to 10 had started functioning again for a while but now they too have been closed again. Anganwadis have remained closed throughout this period and still remain closed as of June 2021. No one has a clear idea about how this school closure has affected the lives and learning of children. Government bodies as well as non-government organizations are taking efforts to continue the teaching-learning activities in an online mode. In this blog I am going to present an overview of an initiative by QUEST which is also making this effort.
QUEST’s Palavee program is being implemented in the state of Maharashtra with the objective to strengthen the Early Childhood Education (ECE) in Anganwadis by training the Anganwadi Sevikas and Supervisors. It has reached over 1800 Anganwadis. Since the lockdown, the work with children in the Anganwadis has come to a standstill. Thus, we at QUEST began thinking about how children’s education could continue outside the Anganwadis.
Considering the age group of children in Anganwadis (3 to 6 years), we believe that it is not advisable to teach them using electronic gadgets like mobile phones or tablets. Because, firstly, it is not yet clear what ill effects such gadgets can have on such young children. And secondly, the learning experiences created using these gadgets are quite limited. Children learn better when they interact with adults while using real objects. Considering this, we decided to explore ways in which children’s education could continue at home with the help of their parents. After a few discussions and data collection, we planned the following strategy:
- To create short videos explaining how to teach children at home through certain activities and then send the videos to parents
- To ask Anganwadi Sevikas to create whatsapp groups of parents having smartphones and post the videos in these groups along with instructions, and to appeal to parents to conduct those activities with children
- To ask Anganwadi Sevikas to show the videos to parents without smartphones when they come to the Anganwadi to collect rations for their children’s mid-day-meals
In the last few months, we have created 87 whatsapp groups of parents in Palghar, Parbhani, Amravati and Yavatmal districts. A total of 1541 parents are participating in this initiative. Many of them have responded well. Some have even posted their own videos of conducting activities with their children.With this, after a long gap, children’s education has finally begun at home, at least to some extent.
In this video, the child, Rudra, is able to understand the concept of what is more and what is less, but he is not able to express it in a comparative sentence. He has given the correct answer for ‘what is more’, but he says ‘cups are more, plates are more’ when asked to compare the two. Young children often find it difficult to express what they have understood in a precise form. A little help from an adult can better channel their language development. Teaching math in an Anganwadi is thus strongly connected to children’s language development. Therefore, the presence of an adult greatly helps in a child’s language development. Mobile phones or other gadgets cannot provide this support. Hence, parents need to take an initiative to teach their children. Even if they can spend fifteen minutes a day for these activities, that would be beneficial.
Since the parents have started sharing their own videos on the whatsapp groups, the Anganwadi Sevikas are also feeling enthused. For the ‘Anganwadi Majhya Ghari’ program, we have had to broaden the definition of the word ‘parent’ – because it is evident from the videos that not only the parents but also older siblings, grandparents and neighbor’s children are participating in this work! ‘Anganwadi Majhya Ghari’ may become an integral part of QUEST’s Palavee program in the days to come.