Koraput welcomes the visitors from Bhubaneswar to the cool breeze and interior climate to heave a sigh of relief from the hot and humid coastal climate of August. This was a field visit for conducting research to analyse school readiness of children from scheduled tribe (ST) community. Koraput located on a section of the Eastern Ghats has a vast expanse of mountain ranges. The district occupies a unique position in the tribal map of Odisha with 50% of ST population. Nearly 62 types of ST of Odisha have their existence in this district each with a distinct set of values, beliefs and rituals.
An Anganawadi in the interior of Similiguda provided space for our orientation to field investigators. We had to prepare couple of local youth to collect data through the tools that were developed to assess school readiness of children in the cognitive, social and language areas. Unlike other Anganawadis, this one welcomed us to a clean orderly and a huge bunch of bubbling children numbering 36. All the children with their neat uniforms, including their teacher and helper. The room was large enough for the seating of children in a big circle. Open racks on the wall had staked boxes neatly labelled that contained cut outs of alphabets, numbers, beads, seeds and many more. Surprisingly most of the materials were developed by the teacher Basudha (pseudonym) with the help of the helper and others in the neighbourhood with materials available in the surrounding. She took great interest in explaining the materials with all innocence enthusiasm and contentment. She knew her role and was proud of being a part of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) project of the nation.
The pot of drinking water is clean and covered with a plate. The helper gives water to drink poured into a cup whenever a child comes there. There is another pot with water with a mug attached to it to wash hands. The helper insists on washing hands before serving food. Children take a line to the water pot, the helper pours the water to children’s hands, all of them wash with soap and sit in a circle for lunch. Fresh rice and vegetables served to all and they ate without wasting. The helper helped very young children to eat and as soon as all children finished eating, she cleaned the room briskly.
The teacher and the helper along with the members of the community have made the ambience child friendly, healthy and learning oriented. The teacher Basudha was different and I had much to learn from her. She had no complaint on any facility. She has converted the available infrastructure and resources appropriately to suit the working, she takes personal interest in children to see that they come to the centre regularly, smiling non-stop explained her work to us taking care of children engaging them with songs and games. She knew the speciality of every child. One girl was good at acting and because of her she had planned one play wherein the small girl takes the lead role and manages the small group with her. That was a story of a family taking their children to a village fair. Interesting conversation is built in to the play that brings the fair live to the room. Mother takes lead role in controlling unruly children that the young girl has been prepared to. In this process she controls the group for nearly half an hour. During this time the teacher engages the other group on some other activity. The children show great maturity responsibility and comradeship. I realised one person can make a difference. I am sure there are many ‘Basudhas’ in India to move towards realising the objectives of early childhood care and education to reality.