In discussing children and ESC rights, it is important to stress that
ESC rights are an integral part of the rights of the child. Increased
enjoyment of ESC rights by children, as well as by adults, would contribute
to increased protection of the rights of the child.
"She will go to school when these grow a little older,” was the
father’s answer when we asked when eight-year-old Radha would be enrolled
in school. We looked around at Radha’s siblings, aged six months, two
years and three years, and wondered if that day would come late-or never.
Radha’s mother had to go out to the field and could not do without
her help at home. Radha’s predicament could have been avoided had a
crèche or a child-care facility been available. This is indeed one
of the aims of the anganwadis (crèches) run under the Integrated Child
Development Scheme (ICDS). In fact, a well-functioning ICDS centre
is meant to provide much more. It would look after the nutrition and
health care needs of pregnant and lactating women. It would enable
poor women and their elder children to go to work or school without
constraint. It would even look after the developmental needs of the
young children placed in its care.
A well-functioning anganwadi (crèche) has much to contribute to the
success of schooling. If pregnant women are looked after, then babies
are less likely to have a low birth-weight, with all its attendant problems.
Providing the right kind of stimulation as well as food to small children
helps their healthy development. And a good pre-school programme enhances
the readiness of young children to enter school.
The performance of anganwadis (crèches) in the States (in India) studied
is, however, very poor. To start with, coverage is patchy: barely one-third
of the sample villages had an anganwadi. Secondly, an anganwadi is
judged purely on the regularity and quality of the mid-day meal it supplies
to the children. Even by this basic criterion, most parents felt that
the facility was not satisfactory. Thirdly, anganwadis had no linkage
with the primary school, either in terms of their location or in terms
of fulfilling the needs of elder caregivers.
In Himachal Pradesh (another State in India), by contrast, about half
of the villages have a functioning anganwadi, and 85 per cent of these
anganwadis are considered "satisfactory” by the local headteacher.
One comparative study of schooling in Srimaur district in the State
of Himachal Pradesh and Allahabad district in the State of Uttar Pradesh
found that the functioning of anganwadis was very poor in Allahabad
but reasonably good in Himachal Pradesh. This is one of the circumstances
that have helped Himachali women to send their children to school in
spite of their heavy work-load. In Kerala (another State with high
level of social indicators), the situation is even better: 99 per cent
of the villages have an anganwadi.1
1. Public Report
on Basic Education in India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press,