One of the important objectives of the ECE program in an Anganwadi is to develop hygiene habits among children. Certain simple physical facilities created in the Anganwadi can go a long way in working towards this objective. It is very common to see children in Anganwadis suffering from a cold and having runny noses. Children in Deepa Tai’s Anganwadi are no exception. Deepa Tai used to give them a towel to wipe their noses. But soon she realized that the towel may cause the infection to spread. Most children in her Anganwadi did not carry a handkerchief. Deepa Tai found a creative solution for this problem, which you can see in this video. In the current pandemic times, this solution is quite important.
Along with teaching children about hygiene habits, it is also important to create awareness among parents about sanitation and hygiene. The Anganwadi Sevika needs to occasionally take on the role of a counselor for the parents. In the video, Deepa Tai says that she repeatedly asks the parents to cut their children’s nails. But not all parents respond to her request. Some want to do it but are not able to for various reasons. In the video you can see how Deepa Tai has dealt with this difficulty. You will also discover that while the parents may not respond to her request, the children in Deepa Tai’s Anganwadi have definitely learnt the importance of cutting nails.
Parents as well as the community at large have some ideas about what makes a ‘good’ preschool. For example, a popular opinion is that a preschool which has benches or desks for children is better than a preschool which doesn’t have them. Anganwadis near urban areas have to compete with private preschool centers, most of which have colourful desks. Parents insist that the Anganwadi should also have such furniture. The Anganwadi Sevika finds it quite difficult to explain to parents that a good preschool must have a flexible seating arrangement which can be changed according to the nature of activity.
In an ECE program in an Anganwadi, such furniture is more of a hindrance than help. In private preschools this furniture does not become an obstacle because children spend most of their time copying what is written on the blackboard. However, in my opinion, having such furniture will be against the principles of ECE if one is to conduct a program for the holistic development of children, because the furniture will restrict children’s movement. Do let me know your opinion on this issue in the comments.
To run an Anganwadi effectively, the Anganwadi Sevika has to gain cooperation from parents, villagers as well as local officials. Thousands of Anganwadi Sevikas in the state are trying to do this as per their abilities. But there is no system in place for the professional development of Anganwadi sevikas. In fact, most people in our society do not view the Anganwadi Sevika’s work as a profession.
I will share an example to illustrate how low the status of this profession is. A few years ago, I was invited to give a speech at the Early Childhood Education department at an established institution. I accepted the invitation and sent them my short bio saying that I worked as a Balwadi teacher in a tribal area. However, the person who introduced me at the gathering gave a long introduction based on information he had collected from elsewhere, and lightly mentioned that I had asked to be introduced as a Balwadi teacher. The fact that introducing someone as a ‘Balwadi teacher’ didn’t seem reputable enough is indicative of the society’s ignorance about early childhood education. Just because this profession is not given its due status in society and does not pay much doesn’t mean that it is less important.
In the video, Deepa Tai also makes the same point. Her assertiveness comes from her knowledge and her work. All the Anganwadi Sevikas may not be as assertive as Deepa Tai. But it is our responsibility as a society to empower them – not only for their own well-being but also for the bright future of the society as a whole. How do we ensure that this will happen? Please share your thoughts.