Pre-primary education in schools across the globe is considered to be the foundation stone of personality of a child and is instrumental in elevating the educational standards of a system. It is the chief focus of developed nations as this stage is very crucial in the cognitive development of a child. We have an organized system of pre-primary schooling in the private sector educational institutions of our state but government schools are yet to come at par with them. This sluggish approach is detrimental in the decline of enrollment in government Schools. Though a solitary pre-primary class is in place in our government schools for last few years but the poor management contrary to private schools is hitting us badly.
Realizing the importance of organized kindergarten classes in schools, directorate of school education department of Kashmir came up with a noble initiative to establish model Kindergarten centers in a few Schools across the valley. To be precise enough, there are some 50 model Kindergarten Centers across Kashmir valley. Five centers in each district are run since last November. Government has done a herculean task by renovating the school buildings meant for this model Kindergarten centers. Chairs for children to sit in, comfortable and attractive furnishing in comparison to our government School classrooms, modern dining rooms with dining tables, walls and ceiling painted with 3D pictures , special training for teachers (preferably female teachers) to teach these children and a care taker which is called mother in different crèche centers. I mean, authorities have come up with an honest and sincere approach. And parents have shown overwhelming response to this initiative with lots of kids being enrolled in these centers. Fortunately, such a centre is running in the school where I am discharging my duties as a teacher. Though I don't have any special assignment there in the centre but I have been observing it with keen interest.
This is the last glimmer of hope for government schools. The way, private schools are galloping ahead, things are looking bleak for government schools. When there are people to give you stiff competition, you need to be equally competent and energetic to keep pace with the changing times otherwise people will trample you under their feet. Kindergarten classes are highly organized in private sector schools which attracts parents to enroll their children there. Now, when government has taken the initiative to make a new beginning in our government schools with these model Kindergarten Centers, they should expand its horizon. Solitary centre in an educational zone is not enough to cater the needs. If it is not possible for the government to establish such Centers in all the schools but there should be at least two such centers in every cluster.
It is quite disheartening to learn that there is no provision of mid day meals (MDM) for the children enrolled in these centers. It is extremely difficult for the school heads to compensate the meals for these children because it will prove detrimental for these newly established centers if the children enrolled are sent back to homes for lunch. When government is mulling to cover 9th and 10th class students under the MDM scheme, why can't they provide free meals to these children who deserve more than others? Though there is no scope of text books as the children are taught via play way methods, these centers are meant to prepare children for primary schooling but there must be the provision of free stationary. Distribution of free stationary items will motivate the children to study in these centers. It will help to lessen the trust deficit of parents. Free and attractive uniforms should be made available to these children. These centers should be developed as the centers of attraction for common masses. Affluent and philanthropic people can adopt these centers for a new change. Even our MLAs and MPs can adopt these centers because these centers are few in number, and it won't be a Herculean job for generous and kind hearted people to adopt these centers. Let us not wait for government to do everything for us; we too owe a lot to our people. Why don't we come forward to bell the cat?
Teachers of these centers have a greater role to play. Working in these centers is more than teaching; the teachers here have to teach the children to learn. It is not every body's cup of tea to be a kindergarten teacher. These teachers have to give more than 100%. They have to be on their toes. Other teachers in the school should not keep aloof from these centers but should extend all possible help to the teachers posted in these centers. They should help them to mobilize community. There should be proper communication with the parents of the children. Teacher-parent meetings should be held every month. There must be ‘whatsApp’ groups of parents and teachers to maintain close rapport between the different stakeholders. Zonal and district level officers should keep a close vigil on these centers or they should visit these centers frequently. Teachers should be given special trainings every year to implement the best teaching-learning pedagogies.
People at the helm of affairs should provide other facilities to the children enrolled in these centers like swings, toys, dolls, crayons, paints, slides, seesaw, bathing tub, paintbrushes, jigsaw puzzles etc. But, ironically there are no provisions of ceiling fans available to relief off the children from the sizzling and scorching heat. Let these centers be weather resistant as well. Parents should show the same enthusiasm which they exhibit for private schooling of their children. Parents should visit these centers frequently and should try to know about the progress of their wards.
Teachers, parents, authorities and the sensitive souls of our society should play their respective roles honestly. Let us all work for a change; a change which will change the perception of people about government schooling, a change that will free our poor and destitute from the clutches of expensive and unaffordable schooling. Delhi is an open example before us. The NCR government took the initiative, and the teachers implemented it in letter and spirit. The onus is equally on different stakeholders. We need to be sincere, honest and energetic to convert a vision into reality.
(Author is a Teacher and Columnist)