Early Childhood Development – Need and Challenges in India
Since the day we launched our blog, we have been talking about Early Childhood Development (ECD). But what exactly is ECD? Why is it so important? And why, people like you who are reading this should be aware of its need and challenges in India?
Today, is the right opportunity to answer all your queries because its ‘E’ and for us it’s ECD…
What is ECD?
Birth to six years, is the period when the foundation of cognitive, physical, socio – emotional development, language and personality are laid. The development starts in the womb. Hence this period is divided into sub groups – Conception to birth, Birth to six months, Six months to 3 years, 3 years to six years. ECD, refers to the holistic development of the child.
Why ECD Matters?
Every year 1.5 million children die in India before reaching the age of 6 because of lack of care and protection.
Those who survive, don’t reach their full potential. They do not receive adequate nutrition, care and opportunities to learn. It is proven by neuroscience research that 90% of the child’s brain growth occurs by the time a child is 5 years of age.
Not only this, educated and healthy people participate in, and contribute to, the financial and social wealth of their societies. In fact investing in young children through ECD programmes – ensuring they have the right stimulation, nurturing and nutrition – is one of the smartest investments a country can make to address inequity, break the cycle of poverty, ensure gender justice and contribute to human development. There are ample reasons to believe how critical the early age is for a small child. However, the worst sufferers are poor and neglected children as they suffer from the adversities of being poor like inadequate access to basics like food, shelter, water, sanitation, education and health.
The reality: ECD has never been a priority
India has the world’s largest ECD programme, the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS). It was launched as a central government scheme in 1975 and since 2010 has been by the Centre and States on a cost – sharing basis. It offers children, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating mothers a package of services from local anganwadi(childcare) centres. These include -
Referral to secondary healthcare and pre-school education.
However there are significant problems with the implementation of this scheme at the grassroot level as it lacks adequate human and financial resource, effective implementation, coordination and convergence with various departments at various levels.
As a result of low priority, the situation is dismal –
4 out of 5 children under 3 years of age in the country are anemic (National Family Health Survey (NFHS 3) )
4 out of 100 babies are not alive to blow the candle on their first birthday
The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 data for 15 States shows that 37 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted; 22 per cent are wasted while 34 per cent under the age of 5 are under weight.
Despite the disturbing data for the second year in a row, Union budget for the child health interventions was slashed from Rs. 15,483.77 crore last year to Rs. 14,000 crore. ICDS, the flagship programme implemented by the Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) to improve child nutrition in the country, being fundamental to marginalized children in India saw 7 percent reduction in fund. Reduction was very disappointing especially after the Economic Survey of 2016 which clearly said that ‘India needs to invest more in improving nutrition among children to capitalize on the demographic advantage offered by its young population. Also the survey called in for more spending on maternal and child healthcare if India needs to grow at a faster pace.”
Positive signals of prioritization in the Global and National Policy Environment:
Inclusion in SDGs - a ray of hope- In all this debate, it is heartening to note that the International communities are also recognizing the importance of ECD. ECD is included in Goal 4 and y mentioned in target 4.2: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education”.
ECCE Policy and National Food Security Act - The youngest citizens of India got its first Policy, the Early Childhood Care and Education Policy, 2013, which is progressive and calls for comprehensive, integrated and holistic interventions on ECD clearly articulating state responsibility as a provider, regulator and enabler. The National Food Security Act make the Supplementary Nutrition Programme at AWCs a mandated entitlement with norms defined.
Mobile Creches response
Mobile Creches have been working on ECD for the children in economically marginalized and vulnerable situations last four decades.
Our childcare interventions have been aimed towards providing holistic care to children under six in poverty to address the child’s right to nutrition, care, learning, health and protection. It also enables the women and families from unorganized sector. MC does advocacy with the Government for positive changes in law-policy-programme.
Our logo depicts very clearly the life cycle approach - women, children, the young girl and how through the provision of quality childcare all the needs for the three constituencies are addressed.
Today, India is one of the fastest growing economy in the World.
Yet, life for many of India’s children continues to be defined by deprivation, hardship and the battle to survive. The quality - of - life for India’s children have not kept pace with the country’s economic development. We can do better for our children, can’t we?
#Mynameistoday, the Mobile Creches blog, will attempt to inform, provoke and connect, on issues of critical importance to our present and our future.
Do join us for and be a part of the conversations or to put across your questions on the status of our young children in India; be with us on our Social Media platforms.
Join the Movement and nurture childhood.