At 10.30 am the Workshop should start. When I enter the meeting room at 10 am most of the 15 kindergarten teachers are already sitting in the room and waiting. Whoever says that all Indian meetings starts much later than fixed is wrong. We will work together on a health game and discuss the need for a common digital platform.
India is a leader in IT, but what about rural and tribal areas?
Kindergarten teachers in the rural areas – here still live more than 70% of the population- are important for the early education of children. “Most of the parents have a rather low school education. They go for work and care about animals, need to do long walks and don’t have time to care about the children. They want us to teach their children whatever possible. Sometimes they do not even understand why we play also with the children and not teach only,” says one of the kindergarten teacher.
Here, in the villages, the anganwadi teachers are also informal health workers
After the hours in the kindergarten they all go one hour for house visits: we consult pregnant women, visit families with very young children and talk to elderly people. We help them to ask for supplementary food at the local administration or give them health advices. Many join us to get medical advices, too.”
Becoming a kindergarten teacher requires at least a school level of 10th standard, followed by a one to two months internship at a kindergarten before passing an exam. Once this is done they can take over a kindergarten, often together with a helper, about 20 children mostly. “With the years we gain a lot of experience, but we are always interested in additional professional education. We have very little access to the outer world”, explains a teacher.
In many cases they get support by various stakeholders, such as the government, Rotary clubs, local or international NGOs: food, buildings, some materials, and trainings. But there is still a huge gap of knowledge transfer and interaction among the teachers, the district and no professional connection at all to the rest of the world.
The teachers earn around 130 EUR per month
“We have been given a mobile by the government,” says a teacher, “but we have to pay the calls on our own. We use the mobile for calling only, we cannot afford Internet – sometimes we call a colleague, our district lead or a parent if a child does not come to the kindergarten. We do not spend more than 250 rupees (3,50 EUR), that’s really too expensive.”
We are in SouthIndia, the richest part of the Subcontinent.
The wish of being connected to the world
During the workshop session we work on the need for more information and connectivity among the teachers for all the topics they are involved in: education, nutrition, self awareness and health work , … “It would be a huge help if we had devices where we could connect easily, also in groups.” There are a lot of ideas: sharing game ideas … uploading photos … taking some English lessons… more materials and visuals for teaching … better health information…reaching out to discuss… Sharing recipes for a better nutrition…
Mostly all of the teachers agree and show huge interest for the advantages and opportunities of Internet access and a better technology knowledge.
“At the beginning we would need some Internet training and how to use the device,” says one of the teachers when we discuss. Some of the younger teachers agree and come up with the idea of a closed Facebook group where they could build a community with other kindergarten teachers and districts. They all have heard about Facebook and whatsapp, but no one of them is an active user. Simply, because there is no money.
I’m pretty sure that they would be able to learn the usage of Internet and the device very rapidly. And it would put them definetly in a better position to discuss their own challenges and to link back to the “big” world. Sure, there might be many other important issues. But no Internet access means also to depend on others …
Watch the interview with one of the kindergarten teachers’ and workshop participant.