Published: 27th July 2020
How the anganwadis in Karnataka's Chikkaballapur are now vibrant, artsy centres of learning that kids will love
Fouzia Taranum's initiatives speaks a lot about how she worked to improve the condition of Anganwadi centres and impart education in the formative years of children's lives in the process
The Anganwadi centres for children below five years should not only be a place to provide food and nutrition, they must also impart education and lay the foundation for it. This is what the CEO of the Chikkaballapur district's Zilla Panchayat, Fouzia Taranum believes. In the past few months, Fouzia and her team have been working to convert these Anganwadis into models for other Anganwadi across the state. She explains, "The reason behind stressing more on education was to keep them on par with the kids in urban areas. We consider the initial five years of their life their formative years when they pick up skills and language easily."
So Fouzia, along with other Panchayat Development Officers (PDOs) and Anganwadi teachers, has initiated a project that will convert 50 Anganwadis into models. "I took charge as the CEO in August 2019 and during one of the meetings with the PDOs, I realised that we needed to improve our Anganwadis if we want to improve our children and the education they receive. Since a majority of people in Chikkaballapur speak Telugu, it is a challenge for children to learn Kannada as well as English. However, these two languages are necessary when they attend schools," says Fouzia, adding, "We have painted the English alphabet, numbers and Kannada letters on the floors of the Anganwadis in innovative and creative ways, like a maze. For instance, a child standing at the gate will follow the path of the maze to reach their classroom by identifying letters or numbers."
Aside from this, Fouzia and a team of high school teachers, including a drawing teacher, have designed a book that serves as a guide for these Anganwadi teachers. "We started working on the book, titled Chinnari Champs, in the month of February and the drawing teacher designed it and our logo too. We had a few high school teachers go through the content in the book and they were quite happy with it. We finalised the design immediately and wanted to publish by next month but unfortunately, the pandemic hit us and we had to shut down the Anganwadi itself, throwing a wrench in the works. In fact, we had even chalked out plans for teachers and children for the upcoming academic year," explains Fouzia, adding, "We hope that this pandemic gets over soon so that these books are distributed among children and teachers across the 1,961 Anganwadi centres in Chikkaballapur."
In order to attract kids to the Anganwadi centres and motivate the teachers, Fouzia has coordinated with several individuals and NGOs and has gotten the walls painted. Now, children will not only enjoy watching these glossy and colourful paintings on the walls but the enrolment will also increase. Some of these centres have also put in new compound walls, washbasins, shoe racks, cupboards to keep their books and necessary stationery and so on. If you think that Fouzia is done with her project, then you are wrong. She plans to set up a library soon and is expecting publishers or individuals to donate some books for these kids. "We know that the pandemic is not going to get over soon but whenever it does, I would love to implement a small library at every centre," she concludes.
Some of the renovated Anganwadi centres and also floor paintings