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Aug 13, 2014

An Anganwadi the Community nurtures

Years and Years Ago

  •  Fifteen years ago KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 was a scene of depletion, functioning in adversity. The poorly maintained brick-and-tile roof was hardly sheltering. It is the kind still seen in Kumbalgod, 20 kilometres from Bangalore, off the highway to Mysore, an old roofing technique that has all but vanished with time. The anganwadi had no floor, no electricity, not a drop of water, no toilet, no prop or pillar. A dark room, half-baked. And no teaching-learning - that was unheard of.
  • Lakkamma, the anganwadi helper, who seems as if she has strayed in from some ancient past, remembers a time even farther away. Twenty five years ago things may well have been from another century. She worked with sticks to light the fire, then came the kerosene stove that she coaxed into sputtering life, and now the era of gas. There she stands, staunch and motherly, over the double-burner gas stove in the small storeroom, brewing strong, milky tea with a sense of possession, the modern context heightening her rough-hewn, villager-like quality. “The anganwadi is functioning well,” she says, acknowledging its superior strengths.

An Anganwadi with Amenities

  • It is Nallooramma, the anganwadi teacher here for twelve years, who presides over the amplitude. There is so much teaching-learning material that KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 could do with an additional room or two. Arranged along the sides according to Akshara’s preschool education pedagogy, they are an incentive for children.\
  • Every inch of wall space is covered with stimulation, painted by a supportive Gram Panchayat. If it is a hand-painted animal story unspooling on one wall, then it is the Department of Women and Child Development’s messages for child development and community well-being on another.
  • Charts jostle – the alphabets in Kannada and English, vehicles, fruits, numbers. Children’s paintings, suspended on strings, stretch diagonally across the room – a bird of orange and blue plumage, a girl in a distinctive dance pose, her skirt flaring, a fat boy enjoying an ice cream.
  • There are cupboards of wood and steel, a tall rack, plastic chairs for visitors, mats for children to sit on, a solid cement floor, air and natural light. This is not all. KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 has electricity, a fan, a fully functioning toilet, water never running short, transported from the sump outside with the help of a motor, recently affixed. 

A Model Anganwadi

  • The anganwadi reflects in every sense the progressive thought that prevails in Kumbalgod, a small habitat of progress and relative prosperity, close to Bangalore and yet far.
  • Seventeen children, dressed in colourful exuberance, sit in the central pool of space, their attention riveted by LEGO, quite unsurpassed as play-and-learning material in anganwadis. LEGO kits are a part of Akshara’s teaching-learning package in model anganwadis.
  • The anganwadi is a model anganwadi in Akshara’s preschool programme, selected because it meets all the criteria of a full-fledged preschool. For four years Akshara has groomed this centre, upgrading standards and positioning it as an exemplary anganwadi. Fifteen children from the March 2014 group secured admission in class 1 in private schools, announces Nallooramma, a professional victory she is overjoyed with.

 People Support Drives the Anganwadi

  • If Nallooramma sets the pace for her anganwadi, the final word rests with the community. It is people support that has taken this anganwadi where it is today. The community is the spearhead for the change it has seen. It is a partnership, a symbiotic bond. For all that has happened between then and now, people are responsible.
  • Akshara is a catalyst, invigorating Bal Vikas Samithis (BVS), the external community support structures for anganwadis ordained by government which, on paper, is a reality, seldom so in action. Akshara trained 1439 Bal Vikas Samithis, or roughly 15,547 BVS members, across 1439 anganwadis in Bangalore four years ago. It was a successful attempt at creating a community matrix for the nurture and support of anganwadis.
  • Field teams visit communities like Kumbalgod at least once a month, attending parents’ meetings in anganwaids, meeting and engaging with people, forging relationships, and persuading them to do more for their preschool centres.
  • Community mobilisation for anganwadis is an important component of Akshara’s preschool programme, and Kumbalgod was quick to seize the opportunity. Akshara had opened a door, and residents, aware and sentient as they are, took advantage of the openings.

A Monthly Meeting for Finding Solutions

  • KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 is privileged to have a committed corps of people ready to champion its cause. The Gram Panchayat is responsive and takes on “the big things,” says Nallooramma. The toilet was constructed with funds allotted by the Panchayat.
  • The Bal VikasSamithi which has 14 members, is an active support mechanism for the anganwadi. Nallooramma is a BVS member, wielding a large role. She convenes monthly BVS meetings and ensures that everyone is present when the anganwadi’s problems are raised and discussed. Solution-finding is the meeting’s agenda. Action inevitably follows afterwards. 

“For the Progress of Children”

  •  Members of the ChowdammaSosaiah Group, a women’s self-help group, four of whom are in the BVS too, are keen drivers of change. With its trademark of togetherness and bonding, always an impetus for the community, the group takes decisive action on behalf of KumbalgodAnganwadi 1. The four women form a charged inner BVS circle that takes its mandate to heart. The self-help group’s office behind the anganwadi declares its mission on an unpretentious board that dangles at the entrance. “For the well-being of people. For the progress of children.” 
  • Yashodha, 41, who is the BVS President and a Gram Panchayat member, lives up to this tradition. “My aim is that children should improve. I would like all of us as a community to improve,” she says, sitting in a chair in the anganwadi which a Sangha member has donated. 

“I Can Do More. I Want to”

  • Yashodha is a strong-minded person, a woman of many gifted parts who conceals it behind an exterior of restraint, modesty and an almost total self-elimination. Yashodha underwent Akshara’s BVS training. It taught her to look at her role in the anganwadi in a new light. It made her intensely aware of all that she could do for uplift and amelioration.
  • She is multi-skilled, utilising her assets to further the anganwadi. Communication is a flourishing instinct and she can talk to an MLA or a truck driver with equal felicity. Organising, managing and coordinating for the anganwadiis every day’s work. The anganwadi has electricity today because of her.
  • She can take charge of a consignment of provisions for the anganwadi after it has closed for the day, provide a wholesome meal for the children, or teach when called upon to. Or marshal community support, as she recently did for Akshara’sMakkalaHabba, or Children’s Festival, held at the anganwadi. Yashodha contributed nearly Rs. 12,000 from her personal funds for the Habba, believing passionately that anganwadis do not often give children anything of substance and value. She goes about reversing that trend, at least in KumbalgodAnganwadi 1, and made the Habba a community event that has stayed in people’s minds.
  • Yashodhacasts a look around at the children, LEGO-bound and marooned, of their own free will, in the centre, erecting towers with the coloured blocks or experimenting with them. Her granddaughter studied here. “I can do more. I want to,” she says.

 “I Want to Help Children”

  • Ganganarasimha, a gracious grandmother, her hair a respectable, frizzy grey, prefers to recede into the background, but she is no less an instrument of change in Kumbalgod. The President of the ChowdammaSosaiah Group and a BVS member, she got the water connection for the anganwadi from the Taluk Panchayat. She had the fan installed, contributed the chairs, the mats.
  • “Just look at these children,” she says. They thrive in this anganwadi’splenitude, motivated, discipline ingrained in them. They are clean, neatly dressed. Hygiene-conscious parents must have made the early morning effort. Children leave their slippers in a line at the entrance, careful not to make a mess. Akshara’s preschool programme is responsible for the orderly conduct, members say, but underline the energy and efforts the BVS puts in as well. 
  • “I want to help children,” says Ganganarasimha. Her two sons studied here years ago and now she has her 2 ½ year old grandson, Vardhan, going through one of life’s earliest phases in the same anganwadi, a rejuvenated centre that can rival any private preschool in the area.
  • Rangalakshmamma is from the BVS and also a member of the self-help group. She sits self-contained, nodding endorsement. Her children passed through this anganwadi too and her grandchildren are here now.

“We are not Afraid to Do Things”

  • For these women, KumbalgodAnganwadi 1 is the stuff of memory lanes and nostalgia. They have a lot at stake here, an emotional investment. Their grandchildren will soon move on, but they rise above personal considerations to embrace the larger good of Kumbalgod. They believe this government-run anganwadi has to be an essential rite of passage for all preschool-aged children in the community, today and in the future, a life-determining choice, now that it has elevated itself as a reform-driven, learning-oriented centre.
  • Nallooramma is developing into a force herself, already proving she has it in her. An array of strengths is on display – in teaching and classroom management, canvassing in the community, and in organising, the MakkalaHabba a recent example. She is proud to be a BVS member, she says, and is determined to safeguard the anganwadi’s hard-earned place in the sun. “We are not afraid to do things,” she says, with a masterly sweep of her hands.

Links:

Apr 4, 2014

LEGO and the Joyful way of Learning in Anganwadis

Anganwadis – The Background

Anganwadis are government preschools in India. The word itself, meaning “courtyard shelter” in Hindi, has implications of nurturing and ministering and conjures images of pleasant surroundings of joy, delight and recreation. It was a grand ambition that started anganwadis in 1975, which to this day remain an original Indian hybrid of many dimensions. It is preschool, nutrition provider, community custodian of sorts, and purveyor of government’s social welfare schemes. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which envisaged and manages anganwadis under the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD), has remained, since 1975 when it was founded, one of the world’s largest and unique programmes for early childhood development.

When it began, the anganwadi was the ideal agent of change for a far-flung, poor and populous country. The anganwadi worker, or preschool instructor, was conceived as child-carer and keeper of the community’s health and records, and a person of stature propelling change in under-developed areas. That vision has tarnished with time, the burnish of early intent despoiled by the overwhelming burden of daily management and delivery. Both anganwadis and anganwadi workers stand diminished today. Between policy and practice is a large, widening gap. The institution has not failed, not yet, it is floundering.

Anganwadis have not kept up with the changing panorama of needs around. India is getting to be a world of aspirations. Progress, prosperity, a better life, are priorities. Education is edging closer to the top of the list. They matter as never before. Parents, even in villages and urban slums, dispossessed and marginalised people, are demanding quality education, abandoning the anganwadis for the private preschool for their children.

Many anganwadis are scenes of dereliction, no power, no water, no toilets. The shortage of space is widespread. At a time when the focus is shifting from child care - that too ineptly managed - to child development, anganwadis are caught in a mire, the anganwadi worker poorly qualified and trained to handle the awakening. She is perceived as lethargic and unresponsive to change, more a child-minder than a child educator. Though the ICDS has a rigorous timetable of topics to teach and learn every week, the anganwadi worker is not equipped to deal with it. Preschool education is not given the seriousness it deserves. Play material that sparks learning is largely conspicuous by its absence. Children have little to work or play with, little to stimulate and activate their minds.

Akshara’s Preschool Programme

Akshara entered the picture in Karnataka as a non-governmental organisation collaborating with government on a large scale to rebrand anganwadis as centres that promote learning and excellence. In a vast effort recently, its preschool programme undertook a restructuring of all 1776 anganwadis in Bangalore by providing variegated teaching-learning materials (TLMs) for children, training anganwadiworkers and energising community support for the centres. Its attempt to reverse the decline was a significant success, based on which it designed the model anganwadi concept and, together with the DWCD, hand-picked centres and anganwadi workers known for performance. Akshara, with Department support, is preparing them for top-notch achievement, with an intensified curriculum, an expanded teaching-learning kit to address preschool development domains, and training and monitoring of anganwadi workers. 

LEGO, An Enabler

Akshara saw in LEGO an opportunity to escalate play and learning in its model anganwadis. DUPLO play sets, gifted by LEGO Charity, were distributed to all centres in its programme.

LEGO has whipped up unprecedented tumult in anganwadis. Excitement reaches a pitch as the bricks tumble from boxes and baskets. Children are speechless at first before this splendid, multi-coloured disarray and then overjoyed, rattling the jumble, hands wallowing, listening to the clatter. They pick their pieces voraciously and begin piecing together. In anganwadis, stark and resource-deprived as many are, LEGO is value addition, not only because it lights up the atmosphere with resplendence and brings unfettered joy to children, but also because it is an enabler. Children learn in incidental ways with LEGO. They take leaps of imagination, their eye and hand coordination gets stronger, they learn to identify and segregate colours and shapes, they reproduce stories through the models they make – some of the obvious benefits.

 The company’s literature says, “LEGO DUPLO preschool building toys are specially designed for the small hands and big imaginations of children aged 1 ½ - 5 years. DUPLO bricks are twice the size of standard LEGO bricks, making them a great way to kick off a child’s building career. DUPLO is all about giving your child the opportunity to build, create, and develop while discovering so many ways to play.” 

Anganwadi workers have embraced LEGO without reserve and even if they are not always able to channelize learning through it effectively enough, they realise its potential.

As Renuka of the Kasturi Nagar anganwadi in Bangalore said at her training in January 2012, “The children in my anganwadi will get a sense of engineering, they will learn how to plan a house or build a truck, how to put things together. They will get an idea of colour. It is mental and physical training for them. Their memory, their powers of absorption and retention, will develop. They don’t get such opportunities at home.”

A Structured Approach for LEGO 

To maximise learning prospects in anganwadis LEGO needs a structured approach, notes Latha, Head of Akshara’s Preschool Programme. She and her team trained anganwadi workers, realising their skill deficiencies and their lack of exposure. In much of the developed world, LEGO is childhood’s essential rite of passage, but here it is an ahead-of-the times application. The LEGO milieu is new for children and anganwadi workers.  Even so, why a formalised training in activities emerging out of, quintessentially, play material? Why a framework for play?

As Latha points out, LEGO is all about possibilities. It is not all about play, there is clear purpose at its core. There is learning entwined with the playing. As Renuka, the anganwadi worker sensed, the basics of design, engineering and construction are embedded in it. Children develop fine motor skills, learn to think out-of-the-groove and get exposed to international standards of play and learning, made available to them in government preschools in deprived communities. 

Activity Time

After the initial warm-up of individual, independent forays with LEGO, comes learning from play. LEGO activities are an unchanging character of the training, then and now. The Akshara team picks up five random pieces, puts them in a long broad cover and her hands mould them unseeingly into a shape. Participants have to feel the model in the furtive confines of the cover and assemble a similar piece. The cover goes around the groups, each participant gingerly plunging her hand in for a quick, undercover assessment and trying to reproduce that shape in the full light of day. It is a cognitive activity, an exercise in sensory intelligence, in registering impressions and transmuting them into concrete, identical shapes. Children must be able to understand that things can be made by sensing them.

The next activity is building the tallest tower under a minute – that is the test. A simple enough design with similar pieces stacked one on top, each trainee fitting in a brick, contributing her mite. Some of them fumble, some snatch a piece away from their friends in a hurry to get on; some are frustrated by a hesitating partner. The activity emphasizes the element of speed, precision and alertness.

Another time-focussed activity unfolds – clamping and unclamping clothes hooks on the edge of a small square LEGO brick. Participants prise off the hook their colleagues have fixed and attach their own.

It requires delicateness of action, fine motor coordination, timing, and hand and eye working together – all of which are learning goals for preschool children.

A Communication Activity

A communication activity, straight out of the Manual, has anganwadi workers working in pairs, sitting back-to-back, deciding beforehand the bricks they will use. One of them tells her partner what she wants made and how to go about it. The other has to respond to it and put it together.

The challenge is that a child in the anganwadi should be able to design from a set of oral instructions. It speaks as much for the communication skills of the instructor as for the responsiveness of the doer. An accurate description, precise vocabulary and a keen grasping instinct are of key importance. The thing is that as the game goes around, the players evolve and sharpen their early rough-hewn skills, which the children will also learn to do in the anganwadi as they play along.

The Memory Game

The memory game teaches participants how to remember and subconsciously activate memory, to focus, concentrate and absorb detail with alacrity. One group puts up a structure. The other group takes a short, scrutinizing look at it, at each of the pieces that have gone into it, the colours, the shapes, goes back and tries to emulate the design.

The Grip Activity

 The grip activity is meant to attain the perfect balance. Participants walk fast across the length of the hall, detouring around chairs and tables, with DUPLO bricks balanced on their heads - easier than having them perched on shoulders and backs, as they later have to do. The competitive spirit is kindled, with participants cheering the performers to greater achievement. The winning team exults in victory with wild shouts of exuberance.

 Telling Stories with Bricks

The penultimate activity is making the DUPLO bricks tell stories and recite rhymes. The Akshara team gives the participants a rhyme and the bare bones of a story and the trainees have to flesh it out with narration and flow using LEGO. Imagination leads in this exercise, not in a riotous spillage, but in focussed interpretation. The activity inculcates sequential thinking, language, communication and plot development, attention to detail and character delineation.

The Tallest Tower

The final activity of the training invariably sees an animated frenzy of construction. Which of the groups will build the tallest tower?  

Group One puts up twin towers, ascending higher and higher till someone prognosticates ominously that it might start swaying. A few of the group make hasty recompense at the ground level, adding volume and depth to the base with the bricks, leaving the others free to construct on top. The towers coalesce into one, towering right over everyone’s heads. A participant brings over a chair on which she stands for the finishing formalities at the top. They all have opinions on how to make it stand while a quiet crew works on still, buttressing the foundations. Of little avail. The engineering seems doomed, and their tower is in a shambles. Group Two has a competing tower which they have to hang on to in case it all collapses. They let out a hopeful scream invoking stability as they give up their tremulous hold on the tower. It stands on its own a few solid moments, a man at the pinnacle, a pennant too, and then keels over. A case of ambitions running high, an anganwadi worker remarks! The learning values of building the tallest tower are problem-solving in math, understanding shape and space, height and stability.

LEGO had surely made a difference in the ways of learning for thousands of children studying in the anganwadis in Bangaore. We hope to continue introducing innovative ways of teaching so that learning becomes for for children 

Jul 23, 2013

Together We Can : The Anganwadi Story

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”  - Helen Keller

 These words of wisdom from the deaf-blind American author, activist and lecturer are so true. And we see good examples of this when we visit some exceptional schools and anganwadis (Government-run preschool centers) that receive the same level of support from the state but perform magic in that the children they serve do so well in the learning process and make their parents, teachers and communities proud. Here's one such outstanding example - The Konanakunte Anganwadi which highlights that dedicated teachers, creating classroom teaching methodologies and active community participation  can surely bring about a positive change in the learning levels of children and improve their learning environment.

Watch this beautiful video of the Konanakunte Anganwadi and it's heroes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoBuBbldKbo&feature=youtu.be

Regards,                                                 

Asha Sharath

Links:

Mar 7, 2013

An update on the pre-school programme : 2012-13

Children at an Anganwadi in Bangalore
Children at an Anganwadi in Bangalore

The new academic year 2012-13 began in June 2012 with some changes. Akshara Foundation has been working in the pre-school space, with the Government Anganwadis for the last three years in Bangalore. The results of the programs so far speaks unequivocally of large-scale gains:

  • The importance of preschool education was underscored and brought to the forefront in long-neglected, government-run anganwadis and their tired energies revitalized.Community support structures like Bal Vikas Samithis and Friends of Anganwadis, failing or defunct in many places, were resuscitated.

  • The programme forged a bond between anganwadi workers and the community and fostered in the ICDS a realization that teaching-learning material (TLM) is a vital instrument of preschool education. That the ICDS is supplying new material to anganwadis this year is a triumph for the programme.

  • Change was worked into an under-performing government system in conjunction with the ICDS.

  • Motivation and purpose were instilled in a flagging workforce of anganwadi workers who discovered an array of pragmatic teaching solutions and practical work management and time consolidation methods

Along with working with all the 1770 Anganwadi (pre-school) centers, the team decided to choose 333 centers to groom and nurture them in Model Anganwadi centers. The focus for the year is to train the Anganwadi workers on effective classroom management and TLM arragements in a way that it is easily accessible to children. Another important aim for the year is to engage the community effectively and involve the Bal Vikas Samithi members to participate in the day-to-day Anganwadi activities.

12 Supervisors and 333 Anganwadi workers were trained under the Model Anganwadi concept. The training spanned over 2 days and focussed on Classroom Management, TLM seggregation, grouping of children according to their age and classroom rules.

An upgraded TLM was given to each center to replenish broken / damaged materials and provide additional and new learning materials for children. As a part of a tie up with LEGO Foundation, this year, a curriculum based around LEGO Duplo blocks was also introduced in the centers.

Children were assessed in the beginning of the year to get a feel of their current learning levels. The assessments focussed on 7 sets of competencies using 56 indicators:

  • General Awareness

  • Gross Motor Development

  • Fine Motor Development

  • Language Development

  • Intellectual Development

  • Social and Emotional Development

  • Pre-academic Development

When the anganwadi workers conducted the assessment for the children, the mothers also showed interest in conducting some activities for the children. This is a good sign of the community taking ownership of their children’s education and also at the same time they are supporting the anganwadi worker in her work. The post- programme assessment will take place in the month of March 2013 and then the results will be compared to measure the impact of the programme.

As a part of the community initiatives, we organized the following activities:

  • Mother’s Monthly Meetings – These take place once a month. The mothers are happy with the pre school kits.

  • Friends of Anganwadis – To get the active participation of the parents in preschool activities, Akshara Foundation introduced the concept called Friends of Anganwadi (FOA) in each centre. The members of the FOA are the primary stakeholders of anganwadi, i.e parents. This group consists of mothers who interact and engage with the children in the anganwadis. There are about 3-5 mothers per anganwadi who visit the centres and interact and teach the children.

  • House-hold visits - Akshara staff visited over 12,000 households to meet parents and discuss with them about the importance of pre-school education, sending their children regularly to the Anganwadis, their child's learning outcomes amongst many other topics.

 

Story of Lakshmi's Transformation

A Picture of Lakshmi

Lakshmi is four and a half years old. There is cautious anticipation in her eyes as she gazes into the camera - a look that conceals more than it says. Still and obedient she stands, a neat, folded, white handkerchief pinned fastidiously to her shirt, well-groomed, and perhaps tall for her age. This strikes a bit of a contrary picture because Lakshmi is known to jump and clap her hands with abandon, even write, hesitantly but with relish. In the backdrop are the children of Anganwadi III, Girani Chawl, Hubli, Lakshmi’s friends, with whom she mixes and mingles.

Abandoned in a Public Toilet

But Lakshmi has a speech impairment that hinders her ability to learn. What she says is incoherent. She is a trier though, and makes spirited attempts to speak and sing. Her story has a long history. It began in 2008 when Lakshmi was discovered by Sushila Narayankar in the toilet of a Hubli bus stand, abandoned and crying. She was a little over six months old and had suffered a grave injury to her head. Sushila had been waiting for a bus and the sound of an infant crying wrenched her. She picked up Lakshmi and went around asking people if the child was theirs. No one knew anything about her.

Lakshmi was an unknown entity, already forgotten, already written off. Someone suggested that Sushila take her to the police station and file a complaint. There, the police advised Sushila and her husband, Mariyappa, to keep the child with them till they could locate her parents or relatives.

God’s Gift

Till today, no one has come forward to claim Lakshmi, and so she stayed with Sushila and Mariyappa who happily took care of her. For the childless couple, married for twenty five years, this was God’s gift, an answer to their fervent prayers, and they named her Lakshmi. Their recriminations had been endless all those years, directed at a God who had failed them. Now, they believed their Tirupati deity had heard their pleas, a little late in life – Mariyappa is forty eight, Sushila, thirty nine.

At the Anganwadi

Lakshmi’s faltering development was a big blow to Sushila and Mariyappa but the initial shock, the alienation they felt from their child, soon transmuted to a generosity of spirit and a steely resolve. They began exploring alternative avenues for Lakshmi, in keeping with their means. They noticed that the girl was a friendly child, eager for company her age, with a pronounced interest in school life. Anganwadi III in Girani Chawl, close to where they live, seemed a viable option. Sushila and Mariyappa admitted her there in early 2011 and Lakshmi seemed happy.

Trouble soon cropped up. It had always been difficult to toilet-train Lakshmi and now at the anganwadi the problem became acute. There were behavioral disturbances as well. Neither Hema Kamble, the anganwadi worker, nor the anganwadi helper were equipped to deal effectively with Lakshmi. Hema would often call Sushila and recommend that they take Lakshmi to a school for children with special needs. Helpless, the foster parents pleaded with Hema to keep Lakshmi in the anganwadi for a while longer.

Ratna Arrives on the Scene

It is then that Akshara’s Field Coordinator, Ratna, who is in charge of 26 anganwadis in Hubli, appeared on the scene. Ratna had qualifications that gave her a competent edge in managing Lakshmi – a three-month course in handling children with special needs, a two-year tenure with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), taking care of such children.

Ratna had been observing Lakshmi every time she visited the anganwadi. She saw Hema’s fraught attempts at coping, the helper’s helplessness, the lack of positivism in the whole engagement. Being one of the 109 anganwadis in Akshara North Karnataka’s preschool programme in Hubli-Dharwad, Ratna had access and acceptability. She began training Hema in how best to tackle Lakshmi.

The Transformation

It took time. And then everything changed. The transformation in Lakshmi is nothing short of a minor miracle. She is today toilet-trained. Her socialization processes with her peer group are well-cemented. Her speech has cleared to some extent. Lakshmi asks her teacher for toys to play with and the words are legible, though there is a long way to go yet.

Lakshmi is happy, never happier, though, than when she is playing with the toys that are a part of Akshara’s preschool programme kit. But there is a special warmth that Lakshmi reserves for Ratna. She is overjoyed when Ratna makes her frequent visits, jumping and clapping with joy, her face wreathed in smiles.

What will Lakshmi’s future be like? Sushila and Mariyappa contemplate it with some disquiet, even as they acknowledge with deep gratitude the efforts Ratna and Hema have put in to restore their child to near-normalcy. “We worry if Lakshmi will speak properly,” say Sushila and Mariyappa. “We would like her to be a teacher. It is a noble profession.”

Akshara North Karnataka – Part of this Change

As for the Akshara North Karnataka team there is a sense of quite achievement. "This is a great story for us. I feel very happy to have been part of this change", says Angelina, District facilitator. This anganwadi is in our preschool programme. Thay is why we could do so much".

As for Ratna she is receiving affirmations for her work with Lakshmi. The Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) told her she was doing a wonderful job, while the Department of Women and Child Welfare commended her for triggering change in Anganwadi III, Girani Chawl, and asked if she would join as their Resource Person.

Children using the TLM at an Anganwadi
Children using the TLM at an Anganwadi
Training of Anganwadi workers
Training of Anganwadi workers
Mothers meeting in progress at an Anganwadi
Mothers meeting in progress at an Anganwadi

Links:

Aug 6, 2012

Akshara's pre-school program: Another year begins!

Training Anganwadi workers on Model Anganwadis
Training Anganwadi workers on Model Anganwadis

The new academic year 2012-13 began. The pre-school program has recommenced in June but with some changes. Akshara Foundation has been working in the pre-school space, with the Government Anganwadis for the last three years in Bangalore. The results of the programs so far speaks unequivocally of large-scale gains:

  • The importance of preschool education was underscored and brought to the forefront in long-neglected, government-run anganwadis and their tired energies revitalized.

  • Community support structures like Bal Vikas Samithis and Friends of Anganwadis, failing or defunct in many places, were resuscitated.

  • The programme forged a bond between anganwadi workers and the community and fostered in the ICDS a realization that teaching-learning material (TLM) is a vital instrument of preschool education. That the ICDS is supplying new material to anganwadis this year is a triumph for the programme.

  • Change was worked into an under-performing government system in conjunction with the ICDS.

  • Motivation and purpose were instilled in a flagging workforce of anganwadi workers who discovered an array of pragmatic teaching solutions and practical work management and time consolidation methods.

The team therefore exits 1437 anganwadis with a sense of fullness and satisfaction to focus on a new effort, no less intensive, no less weighty. The 335 centres selected from 2 circles in each of ICDS's 6 projects in the city, will be nurtured and groomed into model anganwadis. Last year the team had 8 model anganwadis, supported with additional training, inputs, pedagogy and monitoring to become centres of learning excellence and nuclei of high performers – achievement-minded anganwadi workers and inspired children. The same principle will be applied to the 335 anganwadis this year. With the strategy for this year in place, the program will impact appx. 8375 children between 3 and 6 years studying in 355 Anganwadis. The focus for this year is to train the Anganwadi workers on effective classroom management and TLM arragements in a way that it is easily accessible to children. Another important aim for the year is to engage the community effectively and involve the Bal Vikas Samithi members to participate in the day-to-day Anganwadi activities. At the end of the academic year, Akshara would like to make each of these centers as a Model Anganwadi Center in pre-school education.

Reading corner at an Anganwadi
Reading corner at an Anganwadi
Children building LEGO models
Children building LEGO models

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Organization

Akshara Foundation

Bangalore, Karnataka, India
http://www.akshara.org

Project Leader

Asha Sharath

Bangalore, Karnataka India

Where is this project located?

Map of Provide pre-school access to 3000 kids in India