Our Hong Kong team arrived in Rajasthan state on a sunny day. This “land of kings” (as the name Rajasthan literally means) has a rich cultural and historic background. It came as no surprise that the people here are culturally diverse and incredibly friendly. We were based in the city of Udaipur, from which we travelled to the nearby project sites of UNICEF. Starting on 15 November 2017, we kicked off a packed agenda.
Our team was introduced to the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme. It was an eye-opening experience for us. We learned how UNICEF workers strategically and carefully developed a programme focusing on children from before they were even born until they reach a few years of age. The mission is to make sure the children achieve their fullest development potential: physically, emotionally and intellectually.
It is of utmost importance that these underprivileged children are nurtured in a way that they can compete in a greater world when they grow up. Born and raised in Vietnam, where the wealth gap is still a society-wide issue, I understand how challenging it is for these little kids to break out of the poverty circle. That is why UNICEF’s front-line workers step in to make a difference…
We arrived at an Anganwadi Centre after half an hour of driving from our base. Here, we were warmly greeted by the teachers, the workers and the students. We joined their daily activities, starting with singing, jumping, playing, painting and eating snacks. The whole environment brought me back to my early childhood, with a Vietnamese melody playing on my mind: “When at home, mother is also a teacher; when at school, teacher is just like my loving mother.”
Teachers are not only responsible for children’s emotional and intellectual development in class, but also for taking care of their physical development. Given the limited resources in a remote area, where villagers often take children’s education lightly, it is definitely a not an easy job to keep the kids going to school.
To fully provide support, the teachers also have to conduct home visits and gather as many kids to the centre as possible. The school even has a worker to fetch the kids from home if their parents are not available. Observing their daily activities, I could see how wholeheartedly the staff members here carry out their jobs, making sure no child is left behind.
We also found out that one of the biggest challenges is to find enough teachers. With all these tough conditions, I perfectly understood one has to thoroughly consider all possible trade-offs before applying for the job. And it must take the love of a mother in order to devote and commit to this position.
Nevertheless, these teachers do not seem to feel much of a sacrifice. I could see in their eyes the unconditional love they exclusively reserve for the students. I saw them comforting a crying child. I saw them wipe off some of the snack sticking on the face of a little kid. I saw them smile back whenever a kid looked at them. Every song, every meal, every lesson is spilled upon with love. And it works just like magic! The children here are positively engaged because their “mother-like” teacher understands each and every one of them. It is just like a big family of a mother with her many children, full of happiness and laughter.
Through a conversation with one of the teachers, I learned that she needs to travel for quite a distance to school and also to the city centre if there is any training or a meeting. Considering the road to this remote area, and without any proper private vehicle, it takes them so much time and effort to arrive at the place. And yet they are here, patiently and quietly putting their hearts into taking care of the children. In just a short period, a rapid upgrade in teaching materials and equipment has been realized. All this would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the love and passion they put into this mission.
The Anganwadi teachers believe in what they are doing. They believe every kid deserves to be brought up and educated properly. They believe in creating a healthier community. Together, they are quietly transforming India into a better place for every child to grow up.