NEG-FIRE and our partner SOVA, work for Early Childhood Education (ECE) as one of our key programmes, wherein we aim towards making the Anganwadi centres, formed by the State Government, functional and more effective. The initial few years of a child’s life are undoubtedly the most crucial and sensitive years – they form the basis of a successful and sustainable life ahead. It is therefore essential to work towards holistic development (educational, psychological, emotional and social) of children in the age group of 3-6 years. However, NEG-FIRE solely works for children from the most marginalised communities throughout India and it is crucial to keep in mind that children from these areas are different from urban or even rural children. A different, unique approach is thus needed to reach out to and educate these children.
Catering to the needs of 23 children, the anganwadi centre in the Thuria village of Koraput district in Odisha, is a unique example of exemplary ECE activities and learning. What makes it extraordinary is the fact that the children are imparted learning in their own mother tongue. From the alphabets to numbers and stories – everything is in the child’s regional language. It is an activity based Teaching Learning Method (TLM) where the emphasis is on numerous important activities such as action songs, role-plays, stories, poems, art and play. Together all of these activities, mixed with usage of local language and local culture, contribute to an experiential learning for overall development of the children. The anganwadi centre has one anganwadi worker, popularly known as ‘didi’ and a helper to assist in the day to day activities. This anganwadi uses simple but innovative methods of teaching to ensure that all children successfully transition to primary schools. They have their own simple achievements such as a strong sense of unity, sharing and togetherness, being responsible for their own belongings, keeping the anganwadi clean, respecting their ‘didi’, placing the toys and coloring books, after play time is over, back in the original position and greeting whoever comes in with a warm welcome!