Society

Chennai’s artists are helping make its anganwadis safe and creative

A room of a Chennai anganwadi repainted around February-March 2020

A room of a Chennai anganwadi repainted around February-March 2020   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

The smart anganwadi project aims to do more than just beautify these spaces, and even during lockdown, the creative minds behind it are hard at work

Child care centre. It is an innocuous enough definition, one that belies just how central a role the anganwadi plays in the lives of millions. It fulfils a basic, universal role: Only when they are assured that their child’s health and early informal education is being taken care of, can parents head out to work (or look for work) with a clear mind. What, to many among the privileged classes is a status symbol or the first step towards years of competitive academics, is to many others, a backbone for socio-economic security.

The anganwadis in Chennai are under the care of the Greater Chennai Corporation. As of March 2020, two of these in the city — Semmenchery and Adyar — were in the process of getting a makeover of sorts: from security aspects to visual appeal. “We were chosen as a partner by Federal Bank, for this project to make anganwadis more safe and creative. Initially, six anganwadis were under consideration for the project, including Thiruvanmiyur, Adyar, Porur, Semmencherry and Kotturpuram. These have been chosen by the corporation and Dr Albie John, who envisioned this project,” says Sehaj Sahni of Indian Youth Café, of the project jointly helmed by the bank and the Greater Chennai Corporation.

Needless to say, the physical work was put on hold as the country entered a series of extended lockdowns. However, early last week, the Chennai-based Indian Youth Café put out a fresh call for artistic minds and hands. Physical work cannot begin for a while, he admits, but one can always plan ahead and be ready.

Aquatic creatures illustrated on a wall of an anganwadi in Chennai

Aquatic creatures illustrated on a wall of an anganwadi in Chennai   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

The plan includes not only the cleanup and repaint that began in March, but a host of additions including fencing, water purifiers, warm lighting, farmpreneur sessions, and of course, items to play with. Says Sehaj, “There are a number of things to address. We came up with a morning greeting plan, and are collaborating with visual artists: young people who would volunteer and do something creative with the exterior walls. For the interior walls, we plan to put up boards around nutrition, hygiene, and illustrations that help with the children’s cognitive abilities.”

In keeping with it all, the classroom walls of the two anganwadis in Semmenchery and Adyar were being painted a bright yellow, and a host of colourful furniture, toy slides and the like were being brought in. “A number of other things are in the purview of the project, that I cannot tell you till the work begins again,” he says.

In the meantime, the digital illustrations for interior walls are still being worked on by Sehaj’s team of artists. “The impact that we are trying to create, is to increase enrolment by making the space look cool and welcoming. Otherwise, parents are sometimes hesitant to send their children to such centres,” he says, signing off with: “When we see private kindergarten schools, they look so bright and colourful. So why can’t our anganwadis?”

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 10:15:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/chennai-artists-help-make-anganwadis-into-safe-spaces/article31614614.ece

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