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There’s an Anganwadi Centre situated at a distance of 14 kilometre from the Block Headquarter of Danapur in Patna and it does not have its own building. It’s the 48-year-old Anganwadi Worker (AWW)  Kanti Devi who runs the centre from her residence. Battling a set of health issues including cardiac illness, she has been working with enthusiasm and dedication since 2007.

Bal Raksha Bharat has been implementing Education projects in the region since 2020. Kanti Devi attended capacity-building programmes of Bal Raksha Bharat that were implemented in close collaboration with the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Bihar in the post-lockdown period. However, it was not systemic and structured classroom teaching process.

In order to ensure the quality Early Childhood Education for children, Bal Raksha Bharat in coordination with the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) Department, works towards augmenting capacities of Anganwadi Workers and parents. The pandemic had left a sore void in the learning continuum, especially among the beginners. It was amid this situation that Kanti Devi with support from Bal Raksha Bharat’s Community Mobiliser formed a WhatsApp group of the parents for ease of communication and coordination with children for day-to-day updates and academic support. This was probably for the first time that she was using a video platform to reach-out to her pupils and their parents: an example of how technology can help drive change.

Kanti Devi started sharing short educational videos to help continue the learning of young children. She then went on to inspire mothers in the group to develop short videos and share in the WhatsApp group so that other parents and children could also benefit. group. In spite of battling her own health issues, Kanti was determined to help children not miss out on quality learning in the aftermath of the pandemic. Eventually, the centre re-opened and children started coming to it, a new era of learning was ushered in for them. In between the Early Literacy & Maths Kits (ELK) were distributed to the centre, boards depitcing ELM skills and other learning material were made out of waste materials and were put up at the Anganwadi Centre. All this was done to make learning more accessible and the entire centre attractive for children.

Kanti Devi, through regularly attending Bal Raksha Bharat’s trainings could internalised the importance of ELM and better assess the needs of different age groups. Accordingly, she had fine-tuned her classroom interaction.

With support from Bal Raksha Bharat’s Academic Support Fellow (ASF), she conducted a range of transacted ELM activities at the centre. She developed her weekly plan on 10 skills of ELM for her daily sessions. The impact of her efforts was very impressive and despite her poor health condition she devoted her time and energy towards learning of children who had started picking up learning well.

Kanti Devi didn’t stop at this. She ensured participation of all stakeholders for learning of children. She conducted meetings of local stakeholders and Mother’s Group to build awareness about school readiness programme among parents. She had also laid stress upon the importance of ELM at home and how to use household items to teach ELM skills easily. An example of Kanti’s innovation is how she built a Reading Corner at the Centre with support of mothers, so that she can help children with developing reading skills.

To harness maximum possible support from community, she held demonstration class for them in the centre and requested support from parents and community stakeholders to increase attendance of children in the centre.

“Bal Raksha Bharat has supported me in providing training, how to develop the lesson plan and prepare Teaching-Learning Material from waste items. Children now show renewed interest in learning and this is sure to give them The Right Start”, says Kanti Devi.

“After Bal Raksha Bharat’s intervention in the AWC, the teaching and learning method improved. Children have started learning through play, they are learning counting and concepts of shapes and size, patterns, sorting and classification with the help of household items”, says a mother in the area.

Despite her poor health condition, scarcity of resources in AWCs, Kanti Devi’s grit and determinatio brought foundational changes in the functioning of the Centre. It’s frontline workers like Kanti who are unsung heroes of India’s hinterlands and work to bring transformation in the education and health landscapes at the local level.

Bal Raksha Bharat, in line with Government of India’s New Education Policy 2020, also works to ensure that all children must have access to education including early childhood education, as that pertains to the formative period of a child and 85% of brain development gets completed during this period. Teaching Learning Materials (TLMs) including colourful and informative charts, puzzles, abacus and other aids to enhance joyful learning of the infants, have been made available by the organisation. We also organise training initiatives in close collaboration with the ICDS Department on ELM and have also stressed on consolidated four pillars of educational work – teacher, curriculum, methodology and development, to augment the capacity of the AWWs with skills of early childhood education.

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