BENGALURU: Poonam Venkatesh is a housewife who sent her four-and-a-half-year-old son to an anganwadi in Jogapalya about a year back. She wanted her son to mingle with other children his age, but soon realised that the facilities provided were not very good.“There was one ayah and a teacher, however the teacher would be regularly absent. Also throughout the nearly one year my son was there he hardly learnt anything. The children were most of the time left to do what they liked,” she says.
The government has implemented the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) to ensure basic education to all children from the least the age of six to fourteen since the past six years. However a question to ask is what happens to children below the age of six when learning and education is most crucial? Early childhood is one of the most crucial phases of a person’s life. Experts say that things assimilated and learnt during this time stays with a person their whole lives shaping and moulding their personality.
In the city the nearly 2000 anganwadis suffer from various problems. For one there is a severe lack of space and unavailability toilets.Recently a consultation session organised by Save the Children, an ngo in the presence of experts talked about the idea of the RTE act being extended to the anganwadis. Archana Ganesh Raj, team lead, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Save the Children, says that staff at the anganwadis are over worked. Besides education, anganwadis are used for purposes such as immunisation, supplementing nutritional needs, care for pregnant mothers and providing basic medical services.
Once under the RTE, Archana believes that some minimum parameters such as infrastructure, teacher or staff-child ratio will have to be followed in anganwadis, she says. “In anganwadi, a child has to be able to grasp elementary skills such as basic sounds, vocabulary, arithmetic, develop basic emotional and social skills. If this does not happen at this age, it becomes very difficult for them to cope with higher learning later on in life. Some of them even drop out of school at the age of 9 or 10 years,” says Archana.
G Nagasimha Rao, executive director, Child Rights Trust, another ngo points out that the RTE act clearly includes pre-primary education under its ambit - 12 (1)(b). However there are no pre-primary government schools, at least in Karnataka.
“The anganwadi is under the department of women and child while school education from class one is under the department of public instruction. There is a disconnect,” he says. A senior official form the education department says that the matter of starting government pre-primary schools is still being discussed.