Early Scope

Over 50% children attend anganwadis for food

Jaipur: A little over 50% of the total students enrolled in anganwadi centres (AWC) in the state attend these centres only for food.

This indicates that the mid-day meal scheme has been a grand success in attracting students to the early childhood education (ECE) programme. Another 16% students have been admitted so that they can play, according to a joint report prepared by UNICEF, the Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), Ambedkar University, Delhi, and the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER).

The report was released in Jaipur on Thursday. Only 6% of the parents who sent their children to AWCs felt that the centres were meant for primary education. "I am not surprised to see that half of the 15 lakh students enrolled in AWCs have taken admissions only for food. The focus of AWCs in Rajasthan are primarily on nutrition and health," said K B Kothari, managing director, Pratham, Rajasthan. He has helped the state government to revise the curriculum and to make ECE play and activity based.

The report pointed out that the parents felt that AWCs were meant to distribute food and immunize children. "Preschool education is not considered to be a priority function of AWCs. Many such centres were found only to be distributing food," said the report.

Rajasthan has 61,000 AWCs. As most of them are in a dilapidated condition, only 18.6% of the total students in ECE attended AWCs while the major share (61%) went to private preschools.

Rest of the students enrolled in government primary schools and known learning centres. Government primary schools, however, do not have the mandate to provide preschool education.

The report found that many students attended classes due to their brothers. It acknowledged the role of Bodhshala Centres which were working for educationally backward communities.

The percentage of enrolments in AWCs is the minimum in the country. Due to this, the state education department is revamping the pre-primary education system by making it equivalent to private pre-primary schools.

Another interesting part of the survey deals with perceptions and views of parents regarding improvements that they would like to see in ECE centres. While 72% parents of students going to private schools want learning to be improved, only 55% of the parents of children enrolled in AWCs complained about the same. Even on the quality of food served in AWCs and schools, parents of children going to private schools showed more concern in comparison to their counterparts.