THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It seems as if the state has had enough of running ‘anganwadis’ the way the Centre wants. A plan has been put in place to radically alter the functioning of ‘anganwadis’ to suit the requirements of the state’s children and parents. While the restructure could transform pre-school education in the state, the move is fraught with both legal and political risks.
The Social Justice Department has already given instructions to identify ‘anganwadis’ that have less than five children, those functioning in poor conditions, and those with very low number of beneficiaries. The plan is to club four or five “low intake” anganwadis into a single entity. “Such anganwadis will mostly be found in urban areas where private pre-schools and crèches are very popular,” a top Finance Department official said.
The state has 33,115 ‘anganwadis’, a generosity that suffocates. The state has no choice but to carry the burden as there is a Supreme Court order that mandates one ‘anganwadi’ for a population of 800. In a state like Kerala where pre-school education thrives, this has caused miserable enrolment in ‘anganwadis’. The “clubbing", by bringing down the numbers, could be considered a violation of SC diktat.
Nonetheless, it will achieve two objectives: bring down administrative costs and scale up services. The merger, for instance, will allow the state to introduce bus services to transport children of poor families from their home to the ‘anganwadi’ and back. Besides "clubbing", there is also a move to change the timing of ‘anganwadis’. Now, they function from 9.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.
“The timing does not allow working mothers who have to reach offices by 9.30 a.m. to drop their children in ‘anganwadis’. “They can be made more attractive if they open at 8 a.m. and functions till 6 p.m.,” a top official said. There are certain services – like real-time growth monitoring – that cannot be matched by private pre-schools.There are 68,000-odd anganwadi workers and helpers in the state. The plan is to redeploy the staff, and also to introduce shifts for workers....