Anganwadi Workers: Help to Build a Better Education

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While talking to Arvind from Akshara Foundation he told us about Anganwadi workers and that we could think about them in our work. So we did, and it seems that we now have discovered a new stakeholder involved into the education’s world.

Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Hindi. These workers belong to a government-initiated program, part of a larger one, aiming to reduce child hunger, malnutrition, disease, and death rate. They are a kind of nurses, who take care of child and mother from the time of pregnancy until the kid is about 5 years old. Their job covers wide areas such as feeding, regularly checking-up health and taking care of vaccines. They do that for the child as well as the mother. Finally, they also provide pre-school education for children between 3-5 years old.

An interesting point is that
Anganwadis work in their own village, the place, where they grew up. Therefore they are not strangers who come into a house to take care of a weak pregnant wife, but they are neighbours,friends and members of the family. As a consequence it is easier for the villagers to trust and allow them to come into one’s home and join that intimate bubble. It is said that they usually have better social skills than well-educated doctor and nurses, because of their social experience.

The government trains them for only four months in various fields, before sending them to work. It is so little training, considering the numerous and various fields they have to be skilled in. There is no way they can be competent enough, but I guess experience helps to fill in the blank, at on point.

Since they follow every child in the village, from their first footsteps and even before plus knowing the parents with their problems and aspirations, they have a great knowledge. They do have the ability to convince parents to send their child to school, or at least make them aware of opportunities provided by education.

Our challenge, if we choose to focus on them, would be to extend their role of pre-school teachers. We could help them to educate parents on the importance of sending their child to school. Or we could enable them to take the place of regular teachers, so that they could come to school and teach. Or at least support them, to fill in when teachers drop out. But first of all we have to get to know them, and figure out their knowledge level. They work in rural areas, meaning that we have no clue about their English level, but also about their job skills.

News are, that a group of them demonstrated on October, 13th to demand the government an increase of their minimum wage of Rs 10,000 per month (now it is about Rs 3,000); maternity and retirement benefits, meeting allowance, and so on.

Anganwadi School

A very good article summing up who Anganwadi workers are, and what their job is:
The Anganwadi Workers of India – Connecting for Health at the Grassroots

If you missed the beginning of the story, click here for updates about my internship with Kshitiz.
Text: Jean-Baptiste Haag, A4 student and intern

If you are interested in Design in Indian Villages the Barefoot-College in Rajasthan is a good address. The college believes that for any rural development activity to be successful and sustainable, it must be based in the village as well as managed and owned by those whom it serves. Therefore, all Barefoot initiatives whether social, political or economic, are planned and implemented by a network of rural men and women who are known as ‘Barefoot Professionals’. SvK

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