The need to reopen anganwadis

News: Due to the Covid pandemic, Anganwadis were closed owing to lockdown.

What are the services provided by Anganwadis?

Anganwadis play a crucial role in supporting households, low-income families, by providing child care, health and nutrition, education, supplementary nutrition, immunization, health checkup, and referral services.

They play an important role in Integrated Child development services (ICDS), covering 88 million children aged between 0 and 6 years, The largest of its kind in the world.

Why Anganwadis are important?

A survey by IDinsight across five states between Nov. 2018 to Nov. 2019, found that Anganwadi workers were a primary source of nutrition information for families.

According to NFHS-5, in 2019-20, less than 15% of five-year-olds attended any pre-primary school. 58% of women cited home-schooling as the biggest contributor behind an increase in unpaid work at home.

Therefore, National education policy 2020 places Anganwadis at the center of the push for universal access to early childhood care and education (ECCE).

What deficiencies were found by the survey?

As shown by studies from Delhi and Bihar, knowledge of Anganwadi workers about key health behaviours such as complementary feeding and hand washing was low.

-Anganwadi workers do not have support or training to provide ECCE.

Administrative responsibilities take up significant time and core services like preschool education are neglected. A typical worker spends about 10% of the time on preschool education, while the recommended time is 120 minutes.

-Niti Aayog found that only 59% of Anganwadis had adequate seating for children and workers, and more than half are unhygienic.

Read here: Anganwadi centres are in urgent need of an overhaul 

What can be done to deepen the impact of Anganwadis?

Prioritize Interventions: There is a need to prioritise interventions that have demonstrated success. Studies from Odisha and Andhra Pradesh show that home visits of volunteers engaging with children have significantly improved cognition, language, and motor development.

Reforms by state governments:  States should improve career incentives and remuneration for Anganwadi workers. Policymakers should try linking Anganwadis with primary schools to strengthen the convergence.

More investment: Anganwadis are the largest providers of early childhood care in the world. To improve their outcomes, we need to invest more in Anganwadis and focus on proven innovative interventions.

Source: This post is based on the article “The need to reopen anganwadis” published in The Hindu on 6th December 2021.

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