By Siddharth Rao
United Way Bengaluru (UWBe) introduced the Born Learning program four years ago in private day care centers catering to children from backward communities to further the cause of “Healthy Childhood Development”. In 2015, the Department of Women & Child Development, Government of Karnataka invited UWBe to work in government anganwadis to accomplish the following objectives:
Enhance early learning abilities, including fine and gross motor skills, among children.
Engage with mothers to spread awareness about health and hygiene among children.
Provide a conducive environment for children for early learning
The Born Learning Campaign brings in league all segments of society to form a sort of coterie to ensure sustainable development of children while giving them the opportunity to contribute, palliate, sustain, and bolster the program in their own way. It targets bringing together childcare experts, parents, teachers, government-run institutions, and corporates to focus on childhood development.
In addition, the program also looks to engage with mothers, to educate them, teach them and spread awareness among them with regard to the health and hygiene of children. It proves to be one of the most critical areas in the development of the child and the program looks to expand the capability of mothers and keep them one step ahead in respect of children’s health and their education.
The program also makes sure the children have a clean and healthy environment to learn and flourish, for example by providing basic needs for the Anganwadis such as learning materials, educational posters, toys, clean cutlery, mats, drinking water, meal plans, re-painting of walls, spruced courtyards, etc.
It also looks to improve sanitation facilities and enhance the greenary around the anganwadi by planting medicinal and fruit bearing plants thus ensuring an overall conducive environment for the children, teachers and parents.
The UWBe team ensures that the infrastructure is maintained and used to good affect once provided, through regular checks and audits, thereby never letting the standard deteriorate, and avoiding anything that could be potentially detrimental to their progress.
The children at the Anganwadis receive a mid-day snack a little after they arrive, followed by lunch with a small sweet at the end, which brings the biggest smile to each face. Apart from the services, funds and infrastructure provided, this forms a sense of community and friendship among the children, as they congregate every day, play together, and learn together. It is more than certainly a step in the right direction, as the development process should not only make the learning process fun for the children but also encourage them to continue their schooling, by making education something that they love rather than detest. Furthermore, it also informs and makes parents apprised of the benefits having an education, thereby invigorating them to ensure their children receive a rounded education in the future.
The UWBe team identifies government run Anganwadis near corporate centers and tech parks. They also conduct a gap analysis to gauge the need for and availability of infrastructure at such Anganwadis. Corporates are then contacted and engaged at various levels to bridge the gaps identified and improve the Anganwadis.
In addition, the Born Learning Campaign offers corporates the opportunity to play their part with options of both one-time employee activities as well as strategic long term initiatives, which would look to benefit the health conditions and education of the nearby community’s children. Since education is a focus area, their contribution to the cause goes way beyond funding. It is through employee engagement programs where employees are invited to actively participate by investing time off work to be part of the change through various activities such as reading stories, creating materials to assist with education, spreading general health and hygiene awareness among women and girls etc.
This campaign sheds light on crucial areas of development for the children’s future. It provides for healthy conditions as well as a holistic environment for the child to learn and live. It focuses on building a strong foundation for the children and because of corporate support and that from UWBe, the children at said Anganwadis become “School Ready” with sufficient development of the necessary skills, display growth and their mothers are well informed and acquainted with the concept of early childhood development.
(Siddhart Rao is voluntarily undergoing a three-month internship program with United Way Bengaluru to further his understanding of the Development Sector)