Heavy workload, low remuneration mark a day in the life of an anganwadi worker

Heavy workload, low remuneration mark a day in the life of an anganwadi worker

Heavy workload, low remuneration mark a day in the life of an anganwadi worker

Pune, Maharashtra: From scheduling lessons to cultivating habits and etiquettes, anganwadi workers strive to do their job efficiently under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). The ICDS aims at providing preschool non-formal education to children and enhances their health and nutrition, thus breaking the malnutrition trend in India.

101Reporters followed the daily routine of Suman Nanaware (52), a farm labourer-turned-anganwadi worker at Kurangwadi village in Pune district. Despite her limited education (class 7 pass), Suman’s confidence and learning aptitude played in her favour when she applied for a balwadi instructor’s job. At that time, she was paid only Rs 100 per month.

Balwadis impart non-formal education to children, while anganwadis focus on their education, nutrition and immunisation from birth up to six years. Unlike anganwadis, balwadis do not monitor pregnant and lactating mothers.

After Suman’s husband lost his job, her salary was not enough to support the family. So, in 2000, she took up the job of an anganwadi worker and has been nurturing the young minds since then.

Morning (9.30 am to 12 pm)

Around 9.30 am, anganwadi helper Kamal Nanaware (42) opens the centre. While she sweeps the only classroom present, Suman sets up the timetable and plans lessons for the day. At 10 am, the students start arriving.

An Anganwadi Classroom swept clean (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)

Suman uses the Poshan tracker app to record attendance. Although she has eased into the process of using the app, she is also required to enter the attendance in a register. The morning prayers start at 10.30 am and continue for half an hour.

Teachers and students reciting their morning prayers (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)

Twenty children study at this anganwadi. However, 10 children are absent this day due to widespread conjunctivitis. After the prayers and first lessons, the children line up for washing hands before having breakfast around 11 am. To meet their nutritional requirements, lapashi (sprouted beans) is served.

Anganwadi has a separate kitchen to make breakfast and lunch and a storeroom to keep grocery items. It also has a filtered tap water system. Kamal ensures cleanliness around food and water facilities. She ensures that every child receives proper supplementary nutrition.

Anganwadi Helper while cooking the breakfast (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)
Children forming a line to wash their hands (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)
Children having nutritious food at Anganwadi (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)

After breakfast, non-formal preschool activities begin. It involves teaching Marathi and English alphabets, storytelling and identification of daily use items. Digital TV and pen drive are present for audio-visual learning. 

Children taking a digital class, learning letters (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)

"Under the digitalisation campaign, we now have a Smart Anganwadi. So we have two smart TVs, one given by the village panchayat and the other sponsored by the Maharashtra government. We face difficulties during load shedding, generally every Thursday and during most part of the summer season. We return to the traditional teaching method of using a blackboard and chalk then,” says Suman. 

“The lessons taught here make our children aged between three and six school-ready. They are encouraged to give self-introduction, and read and write letters. Physical education is another important component. Kids enjoy drill,” she adds.

Anganwadi children enjoying the mass drill (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)

Afternoon (12 pm to 2 pm)

Until 1 pm, non-formal schooling activities continue. Along with the teacher-student interaction, peer-to-peer activities foster the learning process. Children try their lessons on the slate and helper Kamal maintains classroom discipline. 

At 1 pm, lunch break begins. The menu has dal (lentils) and rice, which will provide supplementary nutrition and combat stunting in children. Both Suman and Kamal eat dal-rice along with children.

An interaction with women during the breastfeeding week to spread awareness (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)

"My day begins at 6 am. I freshen up and help my daughter-in-law with household chores. I used to look after cattle and do farmwork earlier. Now I monitor labourers on my farm, mostly on Sundays... We have block level meetings twice in a month,” Suman says, while explaining how she balances her work-life schedule.

Suman and children gather in the backyard for some outdoor fun after lunch. They have a kitchen garden, from where they get vegetables to include in their daily diet.

After 2 pm

After the children leave, Suman gets busy with registration tasks. "Poshan app has reduced my work burden. But there are mobile network issues,” she says. From 2.30 pm, she goes on home visits in the village and speaks with parents to understand their concerns.

"The app allots us home visits to pregnant women, newborn children and lactating mothers. There are one to two such home visits per week, where we consult and guide new mothers on the importance of breastfeeding. If the baby is below standard weight, we take the child to the doctor for further treatment. We keep a close watch of the baby's progress. These activities are generally carried out with the help of an ASHA worker,” Suman says.

A home visit after school hours (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)

The government has raised the honorarium of anganwadi teachers to Rs 10,300 per month since April, but the demand for pension has been pending for a long time. Low honorarium and more hours of work create difficulties at times. However, Suman says they hardly hamper her passion, dedication and commitment for effective service delivery under ICDS. After a long day at work, Suman gets ready for her daily satsang (meditation) by evening. Ask her how she feels about the day, she replies calmly, "Work is real worship!" 

Edited by Pranoti Abhyankar

Cover Photo - Opening of aanganwadi - Beginning of day (Photo - Rutuja Chougale, 101Reporters)

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