Early Childhood Care and Education: Information Kit for Rural Mothers

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Dr. K. Parameswaran

India has achieved, in more than one way, the recognition as a global power in many significant economic sectors. Nationally, a lot of positive trends on many social indicators like the near eradication of polio, significant increase in literacy rates and the increased rates in enrollment of both boys and girls in primary schools. However, progress has been slow in areas requiring systemic changes, such as in the provision of good quality community health services. There has also been only limited changes in health related behaviors like hand washing and exclusive breastfeeding.

To better the social health and economic conditions of women and children, the Government has adopted a number of programmes and initiatives. Many of these centrally-sponsored schemes, like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Reproductive and Child Health Programme, the National Rural Health Mission and the Integrated Child Development Services have increased public resources to key sectors. However, the main challenge to be overcome in these sectors is to deliver these commitments and initiatives into results that can be measured.

ICDS Restructured
It is against this background that the paradigm shift of the Ministry of Women & Child Development in its approach to social sector issues assumes significance. The variance in approach signifies a replacement of the earlier solely only welfare oriented methodology with the aim of the holistic empowerment of women and child.

The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, launched in 1975 is the major component of these programmes. It has been expanded in three phases in the years 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Under the scheme, 6771 ICDS Projects and 12.95 lakh AWCs (Anganwadi Centers) are working as at present. Their services are being availed by more than nine and a half crore beneficiaries.  The number of AWCs has increased by more than half a crore during 2010 – 2011.

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
Another important development in this respect has been the Union Government’s decision to formulate a national policy and curriculum framework on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). This policy is to be put into operation through the strengthened and restructured ICDS. This will result in the AWCs being re positioned as the Early Childhood Development Centres. These centres, in turn, will function as an enabling environment for promotion of early childhood development, with a sharp focus on delivering quality ECCE.

Information Kit for Rural Mothers
It is against these developments that Information, Communication and Education (ICE) packages fro the Indian Rural Women have to be formulated. The following are some of the major points that will be covered by such packages.

(1) No marriage before the girl is eighteen years old.
(2) Breast feeding the child is equally important for the health and immunity – not only of the child, but also of the mother.
(3) The mile stones of the child development must be watched for and noted. It is the responsibility of not only the health worker, or the mother! Rather it is the responsibility of the whole family!! (Important milestones include the fixing of the head, sight and hearing abilities, appropriate increase in weight etc).
(4) The immunization schedule for the child should be strictly followed. The immunization card provided by the rural health worker can be of great aid in providing an added vigour to following the schedule.
(5) The father of the child has an equally important role in the growth of the child. It is he who provides the fledgling child with a sense of security and confidence to take on life as part of a society. The rate of the growth of intelligence of a child increases when the child is brought up by both the father and the mother rather than when by a single parent.

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(Author is Assistant Director, PIB, Madurai)

With inputs from Ministry of Women & Child Development and the UNICEF.

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