In the past few years there has been a growing number of workers in the rural areas who take care of the pregnant mothers and children when they are young. These are the Anganwadi workers and their role is very critical in the ecosystem presently. They are supposed to be traveling across the villages, where they take spot and identity the pregnant mothers, take them under their vigilance, and monitor their health progress.
The responsibility of these workers is that they keep on track of the mothers health, assist during child birth, keep track of the new born child’s health and vaccinations, ensure that the child is getting nutritious diet and then look into it that the child gets into school and attains primary education.
We too believe that these Anganwadi workers can be engaged in a lot more education related activities as well. We are trying to see how we can leverage the potential of this network of people to assist us in our project too.
We have been speaking to people on their roles. We will be visiting Bihar again in November, where we get to observe and engage in discussions with these workers too.
Our intern Jean Baptiste adds on how we can look to engaging with these workers.
“Anganwadi workers: a new target for engaging in education activities?”
While talking to Arvind from Akshara Foundation he told us about Anganwadi workers, saying that we could think about them in our work. So we did, and it seems that we now have discovered a new stakeholder involved into our problem.
Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Hindi. These workers belong to a government-initiated program, part of a larger one aiming to reduce child hunger, malnutrition, disease, and death rate.
They are a kind of nurses, who take care about the child and his mother from the time she is pregnant until the kid is about 5 years old. Their job covers wide areas such as feeding, regularly checking-up health and taking care of vaccines. They do that for the child as well as the mother. Finally, they also provide pre-school education for children between 3-5 years old.
An interesting point is that they work in their own village: they grew up in it. They are not strangers who come into you house to take care of your weak pregnant wife, that worker is your neighbour, your friend, a member of your family. As a consequence it is easier for everybody to trust them and allow them to come into one’s home and join that intimate bubble. It is said that they usually have better social skills that well-educated doctor and nurses, because of that.
Government train them for only four months in very various fields, before sending them to work. It is so little, compared with the numerous and various fields they have to be skilled in. There is no way they can be competent enough, but I guess experience helps to fill in the blank, at on point.
Since they follow every child in the village, from their first footsteps and even before, and so know the parents, their problems and aspirations, they have a great power. They do have the ability to convince them to send their child to school, or at least make parents aware of opportunities provided by education.
Our challenge, if we choose to focus on them, would be to extend their role of pre-school teachers. We could make them educate parents on the importance of sending their child to school. Or we could use them to take the place of regular teachers, so that they could come to school and make class. Or at least support them, to make up when teachers drop out. But first of all we have to get to know them, and figure out their knowledge level. They work in rural areas, meaning that we have no clue about their english level, but also about their job skills.
To talk a little about news, a group of them demonstrated on October, 13th to demand the government an increase of their minimum wage of Rs 10,000 per month (now it is about Rs 3,000) ; maternity and retirement benefits, meeting allowance, and so on.
A very good article summing up who Anganwadi workers are, and what their job here