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Current status of pre-school education in Jharkhand falls far short of expectation, as is revealed by a recent assessment organised by Campaign for Right to Education in Jharkhand (CREJ) in collaboration with Child Rights and You (CRY). The assessment covered 65 ICDS Centres across 12 districts in the State.
Very high beneficiary-load on Anganwadi Centres (AWC), poor and non-functional infra-structures, lack of properly trained Anganwadi workers (AWW), insufficient and irregular supply of Teaching & Learning materials (TLM) in local languages, along with poor functioning of AWCs across most of the districts were among the key findings of the assessment.
Going by existing ICDS norms, each Anganwadi Centre should cater to not more than 40 children, while the on-ground status shows that among 38,422 AWCs currently functioning in the state each Centre caters to around 68 children on an average, as against the National average which presently stands at 54. Data analysis done by CRY & CREJ clearly shows that the overwhelming child-overload is negatively impacting the pre-school education environment in many of the AWCs.
Elaborating the importance of successful implementation of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Mohua Chatterjee, Regional Head of Development Support, CRY (East) said, “ICDS Centres are not only about serving hot cooked meal to children below six years and address their nutritional requirements. Its implication goes way beyond this, as timely investment into their pre-primary education has far reaching impact on them in growing as a happy, healthy and creative child. All concerned duty-bearers should also remember that pre-school education (PSE) is an integral part of early childhood care which is essential for them.”
“Findings of this assessment would help know the status of functioning of pre-school education and efforts done by the respective duty-bearers, would be useful in setting bench marks and examining the progress in preparing children for formal primary education, and would help in identifying need for new strategies and roadmaps on PSE functioning with the help of administration, on Govt. institutions and community-based organisation programmes with area-specific focus,” Ms. Chatterjee added.
During a state-level consultation seminar findings of the assessment were disseminated, where Ms. Louis Marandi, WCD Minister of Jharkhand was among the dignitaries. She welcomed the initiative by CRY and CREJ, and admitted that there are some gaps in ICDS which the Govt. would address on a priority basis. The WCD Minister asked for a detailed report on the AWCs running on private buildings and Centres with malfunctioning toilet, and assured of immediate Govt. action to resolve such issues. She also insisted upon the participatory role of community in ensuring the success of ICDS.
Findings of the assessment indicate that poor infra-structural facility is one big area of concern in many of the AWCs. For example, out of 65 AWCs assessed 27 were found to be running in private buildings, among which 15 were in kaccha buildings made of mud walls and thatched roofs. 32 AWCs didn’t have separate rooms for pre-school education (PSE) activities. Only 13 AWCS run in Govt. buildings found to have any kind of toilet facilities, among which only three were in functional condition with running water. And most importantly, hand washing facilities and practices were found lacking in all the AWCs.
Lack of availability of teaching and learning materials also is also a major gaps that has been revealed in the assessment. Only 51 AWCs received adequate quantity of TLM, as reported by respective Anganwadi workers. Out of 57, only 27 got TLMs printed in local languages. In 58 AWCs Anganwadi workers were found to have no knowledge about the dialects spoken by the beneficiary children, implying huge communication gap between teachers and students.
As far as knowledge of the parents about the functioning of pre-school education in local Anganwadi Centres is concerned, there are issues to be worried about. As findings indicate, only in 29 AWCs among the 65 assessed, parents of beneficiary children have some knowledge about the functioning of PSE in the respective Centres.
Dr. Neeraj Kumar, State convenor of CREJ said, “Poor knowledge and understanding of the community about functioning of pre-school education activities has been found to act as a deterrent in sending children to AWCs.” According to him, “it is only by involving the community, especially the mothers, in day to day activities at the AWCs, we can make it more inclusive and successful.”
Sushanto Chakraborty, State Head of CRY operations in Jharkhand highlighted the lack of child-friendly environment in the AWCs. He said, “For proper enrolment and retention of children in pre-school education, need of the hour is to create an atmosphere conducive of joyful learning at the AWCs, which will act as a pull factor for children.” To achieve this, he advocated for capacity building of Anganwadi workers.
Louis Marandi, WCD Minister of the State highlighted certain positive steps that the Govt. has already taken. For example, the State Govt. has started recruiting ‘poshan Sakhi’, a new post as helping hand to the Anganwadi workers. The Govt. is also going to introduce eggs at the lunch-time menu for children in ICDS, the Minister added.
The assessment included 65 AWCs across 12 districts which were Koderma (Sadar), Godda, Lohardaga, East Singbhum (Jamshedpur), Hajaribag, Giridih, Koderma (Satgaowan), Bokaro, Dhanbad, West Singbhum (Chaibasa), Khunti, Latehar and Dumka.
Note to the Editor:
CRY - Child Rights and You (formerly known as Child Relief and You) is an Indian NGO that believes in every child's right to a childhood - to live, learn, grow and play. For over 35 years,
For more information please visit us at http://www.cry.org/