– Amrita Ghosh
The Covid-19 crisis has pushed India’s evolving child-care ecosystem to the brink of collapse with preschools and daycare centres shuttered since March last year and no new admissions this academic year. In India, school closures has impacted 28 million preschool children in anganwadi centres, a UNICEF report stated. Despite the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, issuing an order in November last year allowing all states and Union Territories to reopen anganwadis outside containment zones with immediate effect, there is still raging confusion among parents, schools and policymakers, to find a solution and bring clarity on the reopening of these primary providers of healthcare and nutrition for younger children and lactating mothers in rural India as well as private preschools in suburban and urban India.
“The decision to open anganwadi centres will be taken in the next two-three weeks. A call on private preschools can only be taken by the education minister because it does not fall under the purview of our department,” says Peddappaiah R S, commissioner, Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Karnataka.
It is time that policymakers and government officials realise that the foundational learning of children cannot be neglected. Children should not be deprived of the required stimulation they receive from their preschools or anganwadi centres.
“If most of the economy has opened up fully, why are we only restricting the education sector? Is it because education is not levied with GST? Schools under branded chains are paying GST but it is the franchise owners who seem to be having a difficult time as they have opened as proprietorship or partnership, and are not liable to pay GST. Playschools should rather unite and not wait for the education ministry to come up with an announcement. I have visited many preschools in UP and they are functional,” says Menka Sharma, director of Mother’s Arm International School, Delhi, who strongly feels that atleast 6-7 percent of preschools have unofficially reopened across India.
In Maharashtra, trustworthy sources close to government officials say that there are no plans for reopening preschools anytime soon. Schools across the state are slated to begin physical classes for grades 5-8 from January 27.
EducationWorld correspondents from Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu tried to contact the education minister and Department of Woman and Child Development but they seem to be passing the buck to each other on the agenda of reopening of preschools, after failing to reach agreement with all stakeholders, thereby leaving children deprived of critical foundational learning.