The India strategy of the Bernard van Leer Foundation consists of two main parts. The first part focuses on the situation of the 1.4 million tribal children under 6 years old growing up in the state of Odisha. The second part concerns more than 8 million young children under the age of 8 growing up in urban slums across the country.
These two populations are the main target groups of the BvLF strategy in India, although our work will concentrate on smaller geographical areas within these very large populations. The two goals in India are:
Increased access to quality multilingual pre-school education services for 3-5 year old tribal children in Odisha
Out of the 8 million tribal people in the state of Odisha, 1.4 million are children 0-6 years of age. Among the tribal population in Odisha, literacy rates are 37%, compared to 63% for the state and 65% for the country. Although 77% of tribal children attend a centre run by the government’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), more centres are needed. Where centres do operate, there are problems of poorly trained teachers who are regularly absent, unsafe physical infrastructure, and discriminatory attitudes towards tribal children and their parents. The young tribal children do not speak Odia-the official state language, and the absence of tribal languages in ICDS centres is one of the main barriers to improving learning outcomes. Only 4 to 5 per cent of centres use the children’s mother tongue as a language of instruction. The Foundation has been supporting the creation of multilingual pre-schools in Odisha - as showcased in this two-minute video - since 2009. The Foundation’s support to indigenous groups and NGOs have resulted in the state and national government’s inclusion of mother tongue based multilingual preschool in its early childhood education and care policy.
Ensuring safe and healthy living conditions for young children in urban poverty
Every eighth urban child under six years of age lives in slums, according to ‘Slums in India – A statistical compendium 2011' published by the Union government. This is nearly 8 million children. However, there is a major movement to change conditions through programmes like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) – nationally funded urban renewal initiatives with plans to invest 15 billion Euros between 2012 and 2017 in cities where urbanization and urban poverty are most dramatic. The Foundation strategy it to make these and other investment in urban development count for young children in slums by influencing policy through: i) demonstration projects in up to four-second tier cities; ii) advocacy to drive resources towards improving the safety and healthy living conditions for young children; and iii) technical assistance to architects, planners and practitioners including the dissemination of successful experiences.
Do you have comments on our goals in India? Please contact our India Representative, Dharitri Patnaik: Dharitri.Patnaik@bvleerf.nl