At least 34 per cent children in the age bracket of three years to six years do not go to preschool facilities in Jharkhand and thereby fail to develop the basic cognitive skills that children learn in playschools and Government-run Anganwadi centres, an independent survey conducted by an international organization, Save the Children, said on Thursday.
Moreover, the same survey highlights that nearly 48 per cent of Anganwadi centres in Jharkhand do not operate out of their own buildings, which poses to be a lacuna in the Government’s earnest efforts to ensure a better foundation for children here.
Activists, members of child rights panel and bureaucrats came under the same roof on Thursday to brainstorm over the importance of pre-school education for children and marked the centenary celebration of Save the Children, which claims to have changed the life of over 1 crore children in India so far.
“A draft education policy emphasises on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which is based on scientific evidence that over 85 per cent of a child’s cumulative brain develops before attaining the age of six years,” said Mahadev Hansda, the General Manager of Save the Children in Jharkhand. The draft National Education Policy also mandates at least three years of preschool for every child. It increases the duration of free and compulsory education by making education mandatory for every child from preschool to class 8. The current law mandates free education from class 1 to class 8 for every child.
In accordance with the policy, Save the Children has focused on preschool in its centenary celebration and launched ‘The Right Start’ campaign. Highlighting the importance of preschool for holistic development of children, Hansda said that developing coordination between Anganwadi centres and primary schools was a must for ensuring smooth progress of a child from preschool to primary school. “I think preschool should be seen as a prerequisite for every child,” he said.
Anganwadis were started under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) of the centre in 1975 to combat malnutrition and offer child and mother care facilities. It caters to children in the 0-6 age group. There are nearly 40,000 Anganwadi centres scattered across the 24 districts in Jharkhand including the backward ones where malnutrition is rampant.
Addressing the event, Special Secretary of Department of Women and Child Welfare, DK Saxena pointed out at four major parameters that decide the holistic growth of children. The parameters, he said, were health, nutrition, education and communication. “We should strive to create an ecosystem where children enjoy their process of growth. When we say holistic growth, we are also referring to the emotional growth of a child. Also, when we say nutrition, we must realize that 80 per cent of it comes from how you eat food and only 20 per cent from the quality of food that you consume,” said Saxena.