Hyderabad: Thirty young children and one teacher in a tiny room at Anganwadi, Alwal strive to learn and grow despite the lack of restrooms or a proper classroom befitting a conducive learning environment. The Anganwadi centre was started by the government in 1985 and the state has around 13.3 lakh centres, all working to provide informal pre-school education and supplementary nutrition. However, even today children are forced to learn in non-conducive environments.
Every morning, local children aged between two and six years run across the road from their huts to a little tiny room. The room is more like small grocery store and has no compound, just a shutter right on the road. Before one can even enter this room, it ends abruptly. A large tarpaulin hangs loosely in place of shutters to stop the sun from glaring at the children as they struggle to grasp knowledge, shutting out the sounds from the busy street and the happenings in the neighborhood. Every inch of the walls of the room is filled with graphs and learning material. A small opening in the wall, leads one to another tiny room that stores food, stove and cooking utensils. The children sit in rows close to one another, huddled together and eager to learn. The heart swells as the children smile widely and recite their A, B, C’s with enthusiasm. Once done, they eagerly turn their curious faces towards their guru, Ms. Shyamala, who is their teacher, cook and caregiver, all in one. She ensures that the children are
fed almost immediately in the morning with eggs and continues to cater to their basic necessities, all this while she imparts knowledge through the day. Shyamala claims there are days when she is cooking and teaching, at the same time. For 11 years, she has imparted knowledge to many young children from the neighbouring basti who, once they turn 5, leave her tiny humble classroom for government schools.
Despite her never-give-up attitude, Shyamala claims that it pains her when the neighbors have problems with the children or hinder their use of the bathroom. She says “The children have one bathroom and that is behind this room. But the inhabitants fight when the bathroom is being used, forcing the children to relieve themselves in the open behind the room”.
It is shocking that the kids are forced to relieve themselves devoid of any cover. Both boys and girls are subjected to this lack of privacy to use a restroom away from prying eyes.
While the people within the compound, who wish to remain anonymous, claim the children are dirty as they constantly soil the area with their faeces, little is being done to compromise with these little children. The residents claim that they wish to send their children also to the centre but do not do so as the children who come there are not well behaved.
With no help and despite the constant bickering, the centre has fought many odds and continues to dispense education. Ms P. Bhavani, CDPO, project level officer of the centre, remains in search of another location with better facilities for these young children. In addition, she is trying to hire a help to cook food for the children.
These children deserve a better place to learn and decent facilities like a restroom....