A larger space for children to play and learn — that’s the big change workers at Delhi’s new anganwadi ‘hub-centres’ are most excited about.
With 101 such hub-centres inaugurated earlier this week, the idea is to combine resources, workers and helpers from three-four anganwadi centres to create a larger ‘mohalla playschool’, where economically disadvantaged children between ages three and six can be prepared for formal education.
An official from the Women and Child Development department said a severe space constraint at anganwadi centres led to the need for such hubs.
“Our centres were not in a good condition at all because of the rent restrictions. Children sat on a mat under a staircase or outside the building. What could they learn in a situation like that? The centres were known only as ‘khichdi-banane wale’ centres instead of spaces of early childhood learning. By pooling together resources, workers have been able to find larger spaces without additional expenses,” the official said.
At the hub-centre in Khizrabad village, formed in April by combining four centres, walls are covered with colourful charts created by anganwadi workers and children. “In each individual centre, we used to have 13-14 children coming every day, that too after visiting their homes and pleading with them to join. Now we have around 20 children from each centre coming in daily. Parents themselves come to send them here. The main reason is the larger, more colourful space. It looks like a playschool and parents can see that there are many of us teaching. It looks like a positive environment,” said Vijaywati, a worker at the hub-centre.
At the hub-centre in Batla House, formed in May, the day begins at 9.30 am with prayer songs and exercise. This is followed by a session in which workers teach poems and songs, and a meal at 10.30 am. Following this is a session of games, and the last activity of the day is a writing and drawing session with slates and chalks provided by the government.
“We teach them through play. We have been provided a curriculum by the department, which we use as a reference point, but we innovate and add to it. The children learn the English and Hindi alphabet and counting. Since this is a Muslim majority locality, we also teach the Urdu alphabet to children whose parents request it,” said Zaheen Begum, a worker at the hub-centre.
However, lack of certain resources is still a challenge. The worker at a centre pointed out that toys provided as study material by the government — like colourful beads and puzzles — were last given in 2013. The government provides them with material like chart paper, pencils, crayons and sketch-pens; but workers at different centres have pooled in considerable resources of their own to procure additional material like a blackboard, illustrated learning charts, colourful marble paper and glitter for a more vibrant learning environment.
According to Begum, one of the most telling signs of a greater enthusiasm to learn is that some parents send their children to the hub-centres with notebooks that they have purchased themselves, and ask for homework to be assigned, even though that is not a part of the curriculum.