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Anganwadis

Introduction


Anganwadi is a government-sponsored child-care and mother-care development programmes in India at the village level. It primarily targets children in the 0-6 age group.


It was started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services(ICDS) programme to combat child hunger and malnutrition. In Indian communities, Anganwadi centres offer basic health care services. It is a component of the public health care system in India.


The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is intended to cover six services: supplementary nutrition, non-formal early education, health and nutrition education, immunisation, health check-up, and referral services. It is the world's largest mother and child nutrition and care programme of its kind.


On October 2, 1975, ICDS was launched with around 5,000 anganwadis. Close to half a century later, with about 1.5 million anganwadis in 7,000 blocks and around 3 million frontline personnel, India is still grappling with child malnutrition.



Inspiration behind the Novel Scheme


The anganwadi concept was inspired by the pioneering work of Gandhian educators Tarabai Modak and Anutai Wagh, as well as the educational philosophies of Gandhi, Tagore, and J. Krishnamurthi.


Modak and Wagh adopted the child-centered methodology of Italian educator Maria Montessori to the Indian environment.


Montessori made interventions the area of early childhood education when she established the Casa dei Bambini, or "Children's Home," for children from low-income households with working parents. She discovered that when children found themselves in an environment where they had activities designed to support learning, they were able to learn independently and effectively. Her educational pedagogy focused on the maxim: ‘First the education of the senses, then the education of the intellect’.


Challenges


Combating malnutrition is a constant task. It necessitates a continuous strategy that tackles an array of challenges, including undernutrition among girls, child marriage, and discrimination against girls and women in the family. It requires multisectoral and convergent interventions from the government and civil society that covers infrastructure, sanitation and clean drinking water.


In AWCs, there is a lack of basic services such as nutritious meals, contraceptives, and medications, as well as regular health-related counselling.


Anganwadi Employees are unskilled. Their monthly compensation, which is much less than the Minimum Wage, is inadequate to support their basic expenses. Income is not an incentive enough hence low quality services.


According to the Kasturirangan committee study, it is practically difficult to correct the education curve of grown up individuals , so it is imperative that systematic foundational education is imparted in the initial years. Anganwadi centres (AWCs) are the ideal location for this, however suffering from a variety of ailments necessitates immediate attention.


In addition to nutrition and health, the anganwadis have the potential to become hub for early learning activities. Instead of requiring kids to complete worksheets, the anganwadi may facilitate their overall development via informal activities. In addition, the Anganwadi learning model is obsolete and inadequate for acquiring the skills necessary today.


The present research demonstrates the necessity of a play-based learning method coupled with appropriate supplemental nutrition for the cognitive development of children, which is not being successfully implemented in Anganwadi centres (AWCs). AWCs face an absence of infrastructure. A quarter of the operational AWCs lack potable water, and 36 percent lack toilets.


Also problematic are the ICDS services offered by AWCs. Few AWCs provide crèches and high-quality recreational and educational facilities for pre-school education. Beneficiaries of the ICDS do register for services, but since Anganwadis lack fundamental amenities, they turn to paid alternatives.


Way Forward


Modernising Anganwadi Infrastructure

Infrastructure development and capacity building of the anganwadi continue to be the key to enhancing the programme. The goal of the Saksham Anganwadi Scheme is to improve such centres throughout India.


Building Capacity & Training

The POSHAN Abhiyaan of the Central Government has made significant efforts in enhancing the capabilities of AWWs. It is crucial that a more rigorous method to constantly review and fill knowledge gaps be established. Increasing the quality of all Anganwadi services is necessary in order to align them with community need. Anganwadi centres must serve both the community and the program's employees.


Adopting an environment-integrated, activity-based Montessori curriculum

The worth and value of play-based learning for the cognitive development of children has been shown through research. The current situation calls for a solution that combines an efficient supplemental nutrition programme with pedagogical techniques that make learning attractive.


Conclusion


The government has often taken initiatives to improve the conditions of Anganwadi Centres around the nation. Among these are the construction of Anganwadi Centres under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and the provision of potable water and sanitation facilities under the Swacchta Action Plan (SAP).


The Anganwadi programme is the finest example of policy formulation and poor example of effective implementation. To breathe new life into anganwadi centres that are on their last legs, community engagement must be assured. Awareness should be increased among women and men.


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