MAYA was established as an NGO in 1989.  As a development and training organization working in Karnataka, its objective was to address children’s rights with the focus of eradicating child labour and reform in elementary education.  It believes that there are several factors that contribute to child labour and it has evolved a community-based integrated approach towards its eradication.  From its experiences, MAYA recognises the strong correlation between poor quality education and the high incidence of child labour and so believes that education reform will help eradicate child labour.  It has intervention programmes to address not only working children but also those who are out of school and those who are in and at risk of dropping out.

In this context, MAYA initiated community-run pre-schools for children, 2 to 6 years.  The objective of these is to enable the community to collectively address children’s issues; to facilitate the creation of a learning environment in the slums where MAYA works; and to create a culture of early childhood care. It was found that since most of the women work as daily wage earners, their younger children were often left in the care of their older siblings forcing the older ones to stay away from school. Sometimes, children accompanied their parents to work or were left unattended till their parents returned.  Since these children were not exposed to any learning environment or discipline in the early years, they were unable to adapt to the school environment. The government’s anganwadis reached out only to a limited number of children who attended them irregularly.  MAYA believed it was necessary to enable and strengthen community members to address the needs of these children by encouraging and supporting them to take initiative rather than providing them with facilities and services.

MAYA has initiated a total of 92 community-run pre-schools in slums and low-income areas. Sixty-seven of these are in the south taluk of Bangalore urban district and 25 in Ramnagar and Chennapatna taluks of Bangalore rural district. The onus of setting up these pre-schools rests with the community.  Based on a survey, the women’s cooperative identifies the need for a pre-school and finds a teacher from the area. The identified teachers undergo a 4-day orientation programme, which includes basic knowledge about child development, understanding the needs of children, skill training, functioning of a typical pre-school, and significance of community involvement. As part of the initiation and to enhance the parental role in the child’s learning process, parents are enrolled to create charts and other learning materials for the pre-school. Periodic workshops are conducted for parents to teach them how to develop simple toys using locally available scrap material. The preschool is housed in a room/building supported by the community members. There are around 25 children in every preschool. Every child pays an admission fee of Rs 25 and a nominal fee of Rs 30 per month which goes towards the teachers’ salaries.

The preschool’s curriculum draws from Howard Gardener and Jean Piaget, and utilizes the Montessori apparatus.  It is an integrated educational approach, child-centered, gender-sensitive, community-oriented, and activity-based. The preschools are equipped with a learning kit of materials like flash cards, charts, beads, flannel cloth, and other Montessori-based learning equipment. Individual records of every child are maintained and the impact of the facility is evaluated through regular assessment of the child’s development. Play materials and toys are mobilized from the local community and from external individuals/groups.  Meetings are held every month with parents to discuss the performance of children and the kind of inputs provided. The local community members take care of painting and minor repairs of the pre-school.

MAYA and the women’s groups jointly monitor the quality of the pre-school. MAYA provides supplementary nutrition thrice a week that is prepared by the local women’s groups. It is also responsible for on-the-job and special training of the teachers and community representatives.  A special in-house facilitator's unit is responsible for facilitating skills enhancement of the pre-school teachers. Teachers are given inputs in the form of: weekly theme-based planning sessions by a group of teachers at the cluster level which is facilitated by a lead teacher; periodic training sessions by MAYA including refresher training to provide fresh inputs for older teachers; on-the-job classroom demonstrations and discussions; special sessions by external resource persons; exposure visits to other pre-schools that follow different teaching styles. 

Immunization, health and nutrition, and working with anganwadis to ensure the quality of the service provided, are MAYA’s key focus areas in the field of ECCD.  MAYA has conducted short term studies on the nutritional status of children and parental understanding of ECCE.  It is a member of the CACL and functioned as its state secretariat from 1992 to 1996. It also initiated a campaign on elementary education called “Citizens initiative on elementary education in Karnataka”.

MAYA has a number of resources to offer: process documentation reports, status reports; film on community run pre-school; teaching aids that support activity based learning; and training in the areas of health/ECCD.  In the future, it plans to:

  • Impact existing practices of ECCE and influence local self-governing bodies to prioritize ECCE in their development agenda.  To do this, it would welcome help in advocacy.
  • Sensitise communities to the significance of ECCE to collectively address it for children of the area
  • Influence the quality of ICDS

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