Though officials of the departments of Public Instruction, and Women and Child Development may be enthusiastic about setting up pre-primary centres (Makkala Mane) to attract children to government schools, it has attracted the ire of anganwadi workers.
With the setting up of these centres, anganwadi workers have to look after lower kindergarten classes aside from implementing the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
The Makkala Mane centres were set up on the premises of 56 government schools in the district in2012-13 and the same is happening this year too.While LKG classes are handled by anganwadi workers, special teachers have been appointed on a temporary basis to handle UKG classes. The salary for UKG teachers is paid from contributions collected from children’s parents and philanthropists.
The officials of both the departments have made arrangements at the district-level to run these centres. Food meant for children of anganwadi centres has been extended to all children in pre-primary schools. With the establishment of Makkala Mane centres, the number of children for whom food has to be prepared has increased as many children from neighbouring villages also join the pre-primary centres.
‘Too much to do’
An anganwadi worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Hindu that she has to look after LKG students between 9.30 a.m. and 4.15 p.m. “I also have to provide food to children aged below three as well as pregnant women in the village. The officials ask me to meet the pregnant women during the lunch hour. When will I have lunch then?” she said.
Soon after the Makkala Mane centres were set up, some anganwadis were partially shifted to school premises. In many places, food for children is cooked in the anganwadi building and carried to the schools for distribution. “I have visited many Makkala Mane centres in Belur and Sakleshpur taluk. In some places, anganwadi workers carry food cooked at anganwadi centres to the school. In some places the distance is quite a lot,” said S. Varalakshmi, president of the Karnataka Anganwadi Workers’ Association.
She said many pregnant women meet anganwadi workers regularly. But, in places where the anganwadis have been shifted to schools, many pregnant women may feel uncomfortable going to the schools to meet the anganwadi workers. “Because of the Makkala Mane, anganwadi workers’ other work, particularly implementation of the ICDS, is getting affected,” Ms. Varalakshmi said. She said that the government should take steps to prevent the increase in the number of private schools. This will help attract children to government schools.
H.C. Chidanand, Deputy Director, Women and Child Development, in Hassan, does not subscribe to the argument that work has increased for anganwadi workers. “The purpose of the programme was to bring children back from private schools to government schools. We have got good results. One of the objectives of the ICDS is to provide nutritious food for all children below the age of six. I have received reports that many are worried about possible closure of anganwadi centres with the introduction of Makkala Mane centres. There is no such proposal. Anganwadis are needed for many reasons, not just schools,” he said.
However, he stressed the need to strengthen pre-primary centres with the government’s support.