Asha Trust - Chennai Balwadi Improvement Project

Project Brief: Improvements to the infrastructure and education at ICDS Balwadis in Central Chennai area.
Project Type: Formal Schools (description)
Primary Focus: to go to formal school (description)

Secondary Focus: other

Area: Urban
Supporting Chapter Contact: Chennai
Status: completed - requirements ended
Project Steward: Kasturi Easwaran
Project Partner(s): Kasturi Easwaran
Other Contacts: Ananth ES
Project Address: , ,,,
Stewarding Chapter: Chennai
Nov 2010Work an HourUSD 4400
Nov 2010ChennaiUSD 4000
Jun 2010ChennaiUSD 245
Dec 2009Work an HourUSD 6640
Dec 2009Work an HourINR 68000
Dec 2008St. LouisUSD 7000
Nov 2008ChennaiUSD 2255
Jun 2008ChennaiUSD 2000
Nov 2007ChennaiUSD 1000
Jul 2007ChennaiUSD 3664
Jun 2006ChennaiUSD 1325
Dec 2004ChennaiINR 15553

Total = $34350.4554

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme is a central government initiative to provide services to ensure proper growth and development of pre-school children 0-6 years of age in rural, tribal and slum areas. ICDS runs several Balwadis (pre-primary education centres) across the country targeting children 2-5 years of age. During these pre-primary years is when children make great strides in development, especially in the following areas:

* Cognitive Development – Thinking and reasoning abilities that help children learn letters, colours, counting, and develop their imagination.
* Language Development – They begin to learn more number of words between 50 words at age 2 to thousands of words at age 5.
* Sensory and Motor Development – Kids at age 2 learn to walk up and down stairs, make small strokes with a pencil, kick a ball, while kids at age 5 can make simple drawings and write some letters.

In 2003-04, volunteers of Asha Chennai undertook a study of several Balwadis in Chennai and made quite a few observations. These Balwadis were typically places where children ate and remained inactive. There were no materials for children to explore and learn, and not much to stimulate the child. Not much teacher guidance was available because the Balwadi teachers were constantly doing a lot of administrative work. The teachers seemed to be wasting valuable time just getting children to be quiet while she should have been facilitating children’s activities.

Also, these Balwadis lacked basic facilities like electricity and water. There were no toilets. For cooking, they typically used wood for fuel with a bad chimney causing smoke to enter the buildings. There were often other infrastructural problems like leaking roof. Further they lacked playing materials, plates/tumblers for eating, mats for lying down, etc. Environment and hygienic conditions left much to be desired.

In such a set-up, a lack of direction and instruction hampers the development of children’s important skills during pre-primary years. Based on the study, Asha decided to help with some of these Balwadis in the hope of bringing about positive changes. The government departments in charge of this scheme were happy about this study and allowed Asha to go ahead with this project. A letter allowing the improvements was obtained from this Department of Social Welfare. The people at the ground level (the teachers and helpers at the Balwadi as well as the people of these communities) welcomed our involvement.

Over the past few years, we have been closely involved with six Balwadis through this project:

* Oorur Kuppam (Nos. 1078 & 1082) – two centres in one building (twin)
* Ekambaram Pillai St. (1054)
* Ekambaram Pillai St. (1057)
* Nochi Nagar (1063 & 1064) – twin centres
* Nochi Kuppam (1065)
* Nochi Kuppam (1066)

Asha has made several improvements in these Balwadis over the years.

* Employed additional teachers to actively engage children and promote consistent learning focused primarily on cognitive, language and sensory development.
* Trained teachers regularly through workshops.
* Provided toys and educational materials, as well as stationery items such as picture charts, chart paper, sketch pens, glue, pencils and erasers to all Balwadis.
* In terms of building repairs, significant contributions have been made toward fixing leaking roofs, ground repairs, and kitchens.
* Items for improving and maintaining cleanliness such as cleaning liquids, toilette soaps, towels and brushes have been provided.
* Kitchen items like vessels, pots, water jugs and drums were also supplied.

Asha volunteers have also solved a few vandalism issues and civic problems with the co-operation of the police and municipality. Better teaching quality and educating the parents of the Balwadi children about hygiene and cleanliness are other steps that Asha has taken.

We at Asha Chennai hope to continue aiding FirstStep Balwadis in a constructive manner and take up more Balwadis for improvement in the future.