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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Model Makeover!

During its first 12 years, Ishwarpura’s anganwadi was just a playroom for children. But since 2010, when it initiated the use of the ECE kit, it has become a model for teachers and learners

Eisha Sarkar
Published in Success Stories in Early Childhood Education Gujarat 2012 by UNICEF, Integrated Child Development Services Scheme and GCERT

“In which district is Waghodia located?” Taraben Vasava asks the 20 children who have formed a circle around her at the anganwadi in Ishwarpura village. “Baroda (Vadodara),” they answer in chorus. “In which state is Baroda located?” “Gujarat!” “Where is Gujarat located?” “INDIA!” Their voices get louder with each answer, their faces brighter. Suddenly, they break into a song on India. Taraben picks up the khanjari (tambourine) to accompany them.

Changing ways

Since its inception in 1998, Taraben has seen a drastic change in the attitude of children who spend five hours of their day (from 10.30 am to 2.30 pm) at the anganwadi. “Till 2010, all we had were a few balls and toys. I have studied only up to the ninth grade so there was little I could offer to the children. They would just come here, play a little, eat their food and go. Yes, we would sing songs and recite poems, but that was all I knew of,” says the anganwadi worker (AWW). A little over a year ago, the anganwadi got its first Early Childhood Education (ECE) kit. Taraben also undertook a training session to understand how the kit could be used to its best advantage.

Anganwadi worker Taraben Vasava initiates an action-song sequence for the children

“ECE kit has helped me too”

Since then, the anganwadi has become more vibrant and colorful. The walls have been painted with names of the months of the year, seasons, birds and animals. Alphabet charts vie for attention next to a colored picture of Mahatma Gandhi. And the children color the pictures in their much-used activity books with crayons. “I read the books and create my own stories and characters and narrate them to the children,” says Taraben, adding, “The ECE kit has also helped me educate myself.”

Getting children to participate

Children wait to dig into their midday meals
The 28 registered children, who age anywhere between three to five years, are more or less regular in their attendance and are willing to participate in all the activities that are conducted at the anganwadi. “If they do not turn up, I actually go to their houses to fetch them or find out what the problem is,” says Ashaben Vasava, Taraben’s helper. Some of the children are intrigued by visitors and ask them questions. Others keep strangers at bay. “Jaideep, what is your name?” Taraben coaxes a shy, little boy to introduce himself. Jaideep doesn’t answer. She urges him to speak his name. He finally does, much to the delight of others. Everyone claps.

Becoming a ‘model’ for others

Of the 2638 anganwadis in Vadodara district, Ishwarpura’s is a model. It provides the children a healthy environment to learn, interact and grow. It offers them proper meals (cooked in a very neat kitchen) and even teaches them about maintaining basic levels of hygiene — like using the squat toilet in a thatch-walled shed behind the brick-and-mortar anganwadi or washing their hands before they sit for their meals.

To make things better...

The anganwadi could do more to raise the bar for all anganwadis. “They could use more pictures instead of text on the walls and even allow the children to draw or paint on a part of the wall. In order to provide the children with more space to move about, they should stack the chairs one on top of the other when they are not in use. And I would certainly like to see the children using a mug to take the water from the bucket to wash their hands instead of putting all their hands into the same bucket. It beats the purpose of handwashing,” notes ECE consultant, Dr Jigisha Shastri.

Children wash their hands in the same bucket of water placed outside the anganwadi
Making a difference

Anganwadis such as Ishwarpura’s have made a great difference to the lives of the children in villages around Vadodara. By June, six of these children, who have crossed five years of age, will be enrolled into the primary school at Waghodia for the new academic year and three new ones will be brought into the fold of non-formal education at the anganwadi. These baby-steps pave the way for a bright future ahead!

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