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First Stop Education Matters

The road between an anganwadi and the skills of tomorrow’s youth in India may not be as long as you think.  

Education is the key to righting wrongs in society.

Whether it’s sexual violence, harming the environment, or making informed social and political decisions, education can be society’s saving grace.

More tangibly speaking, the key to a thriving economy, also, is an educated workforce. Education, thus, should be at the forefront of India’s agenda given that half of its population is under 25 years of age. According to a Bloomberg News analysis, India most likely will have the world’s largest workforce by 2027, with one billion people aged between 15-64 years of age.

In theory, the government recognises the factors that hinder a child from getting quality education, including poor quality of teaching, and the high incidence of malnutrition that reduces the ability to learn. It was keeping this in mind that the Integrated Child Development Services programme (ICDS) was started in India, the world’s largest and longest running programme of its kind. Yet the 2011 Census showed that 32 million children in India between 6-13 years have never attended an educational institution.

The National Convenor of The Right to Education Forum, Ambrish Rai, said that the ICDS and anganwadi were established with the intention of providing nutrition and education to children (under 6 years of age) as the two go hand-in-hand. But weak implementation and under-trained workers has led to neither happening in full capacity.

The ground reality in India rarely ever matches the intentions of politicians on paper. Community Correspondent Deena Ganwer’s report on the state of an anganwadi (child care centre) that has been running for almost 20 years helps one better understand why millions of children in India are out of school.

This anganwadi in Chhattisgarh’s Bhurbaspani village in Kawardha was built in 2000, but in 2018, it is still functioning without even a building. As the entire set up is make-shift, the teachers cook the children’s meals at home, and the entire process of delivering pre-primary education is a haphazard and disorganised one. Remember that it is at an anganwadi that a child is for the first time exposed to a thread of formal education.

“You need trained experts to handle kids so young, and anganwadi workers are under- qualified and over-burdened with work to do that. Pre-primary education is very important if you want children to start Class 1 on a quality level. The Forum has suggested to the government to make pre-primary education a part of the Right to Education Act,” says Ambrish.

India’s population is a double-edged sword. India is currently unable to provide a conducive learning environment for many children, or keep them in the system long enough to complete their education. With this India runs the risk of having a young workforce without enough skills to compete in the global job market.

Support the community’s demand for an anganwadi building by calling the District Collector of Kawardha at +91-7741232134 and urging them to take immediate action. 

Video by Community Correspondent, Deena Ganvir

Article by Shreya Kalra, a member of the VV Editorial Team

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