Thoughts from India

Its my 4th day into the Nursery World Study tour in India and I am still having to pinch myself to believe that I am here.

I am trying to make sense of what I have seen and heard on the visits we have made to the pre-schools so far and what the key messages are for me (more on this in a later BLOG). To set this in context India has no compulsory pre-school education though there is a drive to lower the age range in the Right to Education Act to include the early years. There are 440 million children in India – that’s a lot of children; 4% never start school and 58% don’t complete primary school and there is little regulation, training or cpd though this is beginning to change.

The sheer size of India is staggering – in Mumbai there are children everywhere some living on the streets, sleeping in tent like structures on pavements and being left in the care of only slightly older siblings whilst parents and older children work. Children work on the streets trying to sell flowers, water and sweets to passers by – its a tough life. These children don’t often reach a school.

Some children  in the slums have the opportunity of schooling if there is a Balwadi or Anganwadi nearly by. These are pre-schools run by the Government or NGOs (National Government Organisations) we visited one called Doorstep School in Nana Chowk, Mumbai, which has been a highlight of the visits so far, more of which later.

There are also children living in wealthy homes with private schooling and all the usual luxuries that many children have in the UK. The contrast between these children’s lives is a real challenge to deal with ….some are living in abject poverty whilst others are extremely well off – you see this contrast everywhere.

Its difficult to process the hardship these children experience but having seen them at Doorstep Anganwadi with their teachers you gain a sense of their resilience and eagerness to learn together. Mansi was the lead here who talked passionately about what she was trying to do for the families and children.

The following are some of the things she said

“We are breaking the cycle of poverty by empowering the children through education”

” Sustaining the children in the school”

“Parents are very important they are the main stakeholders in what we do”

“The child has to be at the centre – we knew this from the start”

“Capacity building” – we ‘grow’ our teachers from the community through training and support…which includes 2 Saturdays every month to share practice together and explore new ideas. She also said

“We want the children to use their minds so we talk with them and ask questions”

There are many connections here with what we want for our children but in comparison we are so lucky to have access to a strong child centred philosophy and early years provision despite the current challenges by a Government who don’t seem to realise how important Mansi’s beliefs are to children all over the world.

Door Steps mission statement is ‘Education Moves On To Every Door Step’ maybe it should be ours…..?