The SRP Project in Kerala has thrown in a lot of learnings and in fact never fails to take me by surprise. The Anganwadis in Kerala bring in children from various social and economic backgrounds. In one of the anganwadi, we could see an example of how a doctor from the nearby Primary Health Centre (PHC) sends her child to the anganwadi and so does the helper who works in the same PHC. These children spend their entire day together learning, playing, eating three meals, and of course the best part of taking a good afternoon nap. The bond which most of these kids share with the teachers and the workers is very heartening to see.
It is also interesting how beneficiaries of different schemes can collaborate to create conducive and collaborative spaces. Typically, an anganwadi works in the area of providing Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), provision of Take Home Ration (THR) for pregnant and lactating mothers; provision of THR to new born children and providing a nutritious meal to the adolescent girls.
Adolescent girls generally come to anganwadis for the evening snack where they are either given a serving of upma or payasam. When they come to anganwadi after their day in school, they are found to join the anganwadi teacher and worker in making anganwadi a better space for children to learn. In most anganwadis, these girls help the teacher in painting the walls or like helping them in planning the activities for the next day.
One of the stories which really struck me has been the involvement of different beneficiaries to celebrate occasions or festivals such as annual day, Onam, Eid, Christmas and Vishu etc in the anganwadis. The adolescent girls and the parents of the children play an active role in assisting the teacher and the worker in preparing the children for annual days or their farewells through recitals, plays, dance or songs. During festivals, all the parents and families in the nearby areas bring in one dish each and have an elaborate meal along with the workers and the kids in the anganwadi. During such occasions the local ward member, Kudumbashree members or even the Panchayat President become a part of this celebration.
This offers a great example of how anganwadis can become a space for different sets of beneficiaries, stakeholders or the community in large to come together. An example which strikes me here, is one where an anganwadi teacher and the parents felt that they do not have sufficient space to conduct the farewell for the passing out children so then all the people in the ward pitched in and they were able to hire the nearby school ground and hosted a big celebration for the kids as part of their send off.
What this also ensures is that the functioning of the anganwadi is not just the responsibility of the teacher or the worker but the larger community wherein they become an active participant in ensuring its smooth functioning.