How to make Anganwadis function better

By Saswata Sourava Panda

First day of school is a memorable time for every child. New dress, new bag, colourful books, cap and water bottle – all come as a new exuberant experience. It brings cherishing dreams of the parents who see it as the beginning of the march towards their child becoming a ‘Big Person’ in society – a doctor, software professional, IAS/OAS officer, Bank PO, a teacher so on and so forth. However, the bigger question is: does this euphoria survive in due course?
We all are well known that pre-school is playing a vital role in respective to education. Two types of preschools are available in India today. One is the Anganadi system and the other is the Private Playschool and nursery system. First time Anganwadi service was started in 1975. Almost the same time it was started as pilot basis at Sabdega Block of Sundargarh District in Odisha. After that it was spread across the country. Though there is a managerial difference between these two Preschool systems, but the real objective is almost all same: to develop the child’s physical, mental and social development through the help of game, storytelling, picture and acting.
Anganwadi (AWC) systems enrol children for free. But to admit the child in any private preschool the parents have to pay bulky sum of money. In Anganwadi system morning snacks to mid day meal are all free. Even then many of the middle and upper class people and even the so called economically lower strata families prefer the private system over the Anganwadi centres (AWCs).
According to the government data, as of now there are a total 71306 AWCs running in the state. Out of it only 32993 (46.2%) AWC’s have its own building. Similarly 28171 (39.5%) AWC’s have their own kitchen rooms, only 20934 (29.3%) AWC’s have their own toilet in the same time only 586(0.82%) AWC’s have electrified. Till November 2016, out of 71306 AWCs there are 4709 AWCs have not any Anganwadi workers, which is almost 7% of the total AWCs. If we see the status of Anganwadi Helper then out of the total sanctioned 61090 AWCs 3450 AWCs have no AWH, which is almost 6 % of the total sanctioned AWCs. Now if we analyse the same situation with the private Preschool, then we may not find a single Private Preschool where the basic necessary requirements are missing.
If we see the both organisation’s staff’s educational status, then we can find the private preschool’s teachers are much more educated than the AWCs. A person willing to teach in the in private pre-school will have to have qualifications like Nursery teacher training (NTE), pre nursery teacher training etc. On the other hand as an Anganwadi worker the educational qualification is above 10th class. Admittedly this low educational criteria is there to get a worker in remote rural areas too. But many AWWs do not undego any regular training process. Secondly, a private preschool teacher has the only role of teaching, whereas AWW has to discharge many government functions. e.g. various surveys, immunization, food distribution etc. The most pathetic aspect is that she has to maintain day to day near about 25 registers. Therefore due to the heavy workload, her teaching role takes a back seat.
Both preschool systems have the committees to monitor their functioning. But the private schools are much efficiently managed than AWCs. It’s clear that without the social assistance or local committees under AWCs will not improve. If this will really happens in ground zero then the AWC system will be improved beyond doubt.
During the time to time visit, it is also true that there are a lots of Anganwadi workers who are running the centres in an effective way. They ought to get adequate appreciation and awards both from local community and especially by the local district officials, so that they will motivate to continue their day to day work. The AWCs ought to be made child friendly with sufficient playing and learning material and strengthening its infrastructure. There has to be regular and work specific training programme for the AWWs. Despite limitations, AWCs are delivering in the most interior and inaccessible pockets the country. We can make it better accepting the following suggestion:

• Regular and systematic fund transfer to the AWCs for timely payment of salary and covering administration cost
• Day to day report writing / data entry / documentation should be much simplifying. So that AWW will not feel that this is a burden for them
• The vacant position should be filled up and the “Creating Anganwadi on demand”, as prescribed by the Supreme Court of India, must be followed in the ground zero

The author works on the issues to right to food. He can be contacted via e mail: [email protected]