Another Brick In The Wall

imageSo, here’s something about my work. The project I’m involved, in CLR, is basically a capacity building and monitoring program for the ICDS cascade. Integrated Child Development Services or ICDS is one of the world’s largest programmes for early childhood development, with an annual budget allocation of nearly Rs. 10,000 crores. As originally conceived, it is meant to provide a holistic developmental support to the youngest children up to 6 years, including health check-up, immunisation and referral services (delivered through the public health infrastructure) and nutrition and health education (for mothers) and supplementary nutrition and early childhood education (delivered through anganwadi centres or AWCs).

While large advances have been made in addressing malnutrition and reducing infant and under-five mortality rates through these initiatives, the absolute percentages continue to remain unacceptably high. Moreover, it is broadly accepted that the delivery of early childhood education as well as parents’ education has not received the attention it deserves given the importance of emotional, psycho-social and cognitive support and development at this stage of a child’s life.

Child Development Project Officers (CDPO’s) are the heads of, typically, a block-sized ICDS project. It is a substantial-sized system with multiple objectives and often conflicting priorities. In view of the complexity of the undertaking as well as the involvement of multiple agencies, CDPO’s need a high level of leadership skills.

Most CDPO’s currently see the importance of their work relatively narrowly, essentially as an administrative task centred on reducing malnutrition. However, the criticality of all-round developmental inputs (health, nutrition, psycho-social, emotional, cognitive) during the first six years of a human being’s life, and the extreme difficulty of making up for any deficits later in life has been well-established. A large majority of children, especially from the less-privileged sections, depend on ICDS to receive these inputs. CDPO’s, therefore, have the potential of causing a large-scale societal transformation through the work they do by enabling a larger fraction of our under-privileged children to lead more fulfilling lives.

Unfortunately, most CDPO’s have received little formal or informal input for developing these skills. This programme proposes to help improve those skills in a phased manner across the entire state. Chhattisgarh state has recently developed an ECCE curriculum and a comprehensive activity bank for use in anganwadis. It has also developed timetables for its transaction in the anganwadis. However, its effective implementation is critically dependent on a comprehensive capacity-building programme at various levels in ICDS. This programme seeks to begin that process on a pilot basis for further scaling up at a subsequent stage. At the same time, it seeks to develop the broader leadership skills among CDPO’s so that all the domains of their responsibilities can be addressed. In other states like Uttar Pradesh, the intervention is done in the district level (District Program Officers) considering the size and diversity of the state.

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4 thoughts on “Another Brick In The Wall

  1. Is it really a good idea to take it up at a higher (and therefore more distant) level just because the state is bigger? How much of that district level input translates down to the ground? Also, does the new ECCE curriculum include a focus on play? Or does it play into the common strategy of just taking structured schooling further down the age range?

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    • It is not taken up at a higher level just because the state is bigger. It is a sustainable way of developing things in the ICDS cascade. After the intervention, after we draw back from these projects – the govt cascade should be able to sustainably continue the ECE changes we bring to the ground on it’s own. And only by intervening at higher levels would you achieve this. And secondly, the concentration is on love, talk and play. It is designed after extensive research by scholars and experts in the subject, and is iterated repeatedly based on needs and context analysis.

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