Down a rutted dirt road bordered by houses with peeling roofs and paint-less walls, there is a collection of tiny shoes lined up neatly outside the door to a modest room that resonates with the sounds of singing, clapping, dancing, and chanting of children. This is the Aanganwadi in Shivaji Nagar, a center serving a slum population in the city of Bengaluru.
The children attending this Aanganwadi come from extremely humble backgrounds and are counted amongst those who are ‘at risk’ for getting malnourished, dropping out from schools or pushed in child labour. In the Aanganwadi, though, Save the Children-trained Aaganwadi Worker helps them shine by making them learn and play at their own pace and preparing them to take the leap to formal schooling.
Most children are in the age group of 3 to 6 years and can identify the letters of the English alphabet. At this age, they memorise songs and dances, sort objects by category, and engage in pre-writing exercises. The children are joyous and enthusiastic learners, eager to show visitors what they have learned. Every month, a set of children is made “school-ready”. They’re groomed to join schools and enter into the fold of formal education.
The Anagwnadi Worker at this Aanganwadi Centre attributes these positive outcomes to the training she has received from Save the Children, saying that the new materials and activities are far superior to what she had learned before. She says that she is hungry to learn more.
Not only have we trained different Aangwanwadi workers, we also rope in the local community to bring a positive difference in the lives of children. A very important aspect of our work in Bengaluru’s Aagandwadi is to engage with the parents and families of children and help them realize that their children’s education and welfare can never be compromised. Sensitization of community members and awareness drives are regularly conducted by Save the Children.
For example, whenever money is needed to add healthy vegetables to the Midday Meals for Aanganwadi children, families always manage to raise the funds despite their own financial hardships. For families, the children of the Shivaji Nagar Aanganwadi represent the promise of pre-school education. Caregivers feel their children’s early education experiences will lead them to great heights, which, in turn, will help uplift their community. The investment in the Anganwadi is, to them, more than investment in a preschool: it is an investment in their future.