In an earnest effort to ensure a healthy environment for the development of poor children, the Tamil Nadu government has proposed to upgrade 54,439 anganwadis into ‘Vibrant Early Childhood Development and Learning Centres’ incorporating facilities that are part of privately-run creches and play schools. It is a revolutionary step by the government because an anganwadi—the very mention of the word invokes an image of a dingy space crammed with underprivileged children–in its present form cannot be expected to ensure holistic development of children.
Anganwadis may be godsend for many poor working mothers as some of the basic necessities of children like supplementary nutrition, pre-school education and health needs like immunisation are taken care of. Yet the overall development of children growing up in government-run anganwadis cannot match that of privileged kids who go to posh creches and play schools. So, to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots the Vibrant Early Childhood Development and Learning Centres are being launched. The centres will be equipped with child-friendly furniture, wash basins and toilets, besides special educative toys. First aid kits will be kept at the centres, whose walls will have colourful paintings for a better ambience. The children too will be provided with identity cards and served breakfast and snacks on the house.
Since this upgrade will allow working mothers to go about their duties without worrying about the child at the centre and also enthuse children to willingly head towards the centre every morning, the spinoffs of the centres will have a positive effect on the overall health of society. The scheme should inspire other chief ministers to draw up similar programmes for their states with a view to providing a better atmosphere for growing children. In fact, the mid-day meal scheme, started in 1982 by an earlier AIADMK government under M G Ramachandran, turned out to be a model nutrition programme for the country.