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Sensitising government, a challenge for ICDS

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CARING FOR CHILDREN: Andrew R. Macdowell, director, Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, Canada (centre), releasing the book ‘Seed to a Banyan Tree’; and M.P. Vijayakumar, honorary advisor, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, releasing the book ‘Joy of Parenting’; at the anniversary celebrations of the Bala Mandir Reserarch Foundation in Chennai on Wednesday. S. Anandalakshmy, president of the foundation, is in the picture.
CARING FOR CHILDREN: Andrew R. Macdowell, director, Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, Canada (centre), releasing the book ‘Seed to a Banyan Tree’; and M.P. Vijayakumar, honorary advisor, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, releasing the book ‘Joy of Parenting’; at the anniversary celebrations of the Bala Mandir Reserarch Foundation in Chennai on Wednesday. S. Anandalakshmy, president of the foundation, is in the picture.

Staff Reporter

Anganwadis have untidy storage bins and inadequate or no supply of Vitamin A tablets, says Vijayakumar

CHENNAI: Sensitising the government is the biggest challenge faced by the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) today, according to M. P. Vijayakumar, honorary advisor for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in Tamil Nadu.

He was speaking at the conference, ‘The Tao of Schooling-Focus on School Readiness,’ organised as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Bala Mandir Research Foundation here on Wednesday.

The ICDS is a comprehensive programme to improve nutritional and health status of children up to six years of age. Furthermore, cognitive and motor development skills are developed and mothers educated on nutrition.

Delivery system

The delivery system and the logistics to ensure that the services reached the children were in place, Mr. Vijayakumar said. For example, 50,000 centres were supplied eggs three days a week. “It is a mammoth task,” he said. In addition, there was a strong workforce for pre-school education. But, this did not mean that all was well, Mr. Vijayakumar said. The quality of rice and cereals provided was poor. Anganwadis had untidy storage bins, broken scales and inadequate or no supply of de-worming and Vitamin A tablets, he said, listing various issues he came across. The workers and helpers were de-motivated with no customised training.

There was no quality control mechanism and monitoring was poor. This resulted in a lack of synergy among growth monitoring, health and nutrition. For example, there was no way to judge whether the additional quantity of food resulted in the child gaining weight, he said.

With the focus centred on nutrition, little attention was paid to pre-school component, leading to absence of sound pedagogy, he said. What this meant was that the hardware was in place, but because of sheer lack of direction and sensitivity, things had been languishing. Given this situation, the way forward was to adopt different models of pedagogy. Instead of theory, working models were needed, he said.

Alongside, a vision for the ICDS in the State was needed with indicators to measure progress.

Among the other suggestions, he said the community should be involved in the ICDS, and there should be a way to make workers and staff accountable.

“Government schools have improved substantially in terms of becoming child-friendly,” Mr. Vijayakumar said. He asked: “What about private schools? Are they ready?”

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