The Balwadi project is designed for children between
4 and 6 years of age, to prepare them for formal school education.
Akshara believes that the
role of balwadis is especially important for slum children
as a preschool atmosphere of joyful learning enables these
children to learn social skills and to gain self-confidence.
These are children who might not otherwise have had the chance
to experience playful learning prior to joining a formal school.
Basically, balwadis strengthen the foundation, catalyze 4-6
year old economically underprivileged children to enroll in
schools and vastly improve the ability of children to understand
the Class I-II syllabus. This results in a learning child
with much higher chances of retention. Balwadis have successfully
socialized the idea of education in many city communities.
A typical balwadi runs for 2 hours a day,
from 10 a.m to 12 noon in the house of an Akshara volunteer
who acts as the teacher. The teacher receives a nominal stipend
from Akshara, is usually a local resident of the community,
and has passed the 10th standard. Children are taught the
basics of language, which may be Kannada or Urdu depending
on the locality. The alphabet, numbers, rhymes, colours, shapes,
names of animals, fruits, vegetables and familiar objects
form the core of their activities. These are conducted in
a manner conducive to making learning fun.
Now schools and communities are
taking the idea of balwadis further. Many schools have offered
their premises for Akshara run balwadis and some communities
have provided space as well.
In an effort to transfer the ownership
of this program to the community as a means of ensuring sustainability,
Akshara developed a franchise model for Balwadis where young
"edupreneurs" were identified to run Balwadi
units independent of Akshara. Akshara monitors the quality
of teaching and supervises creation of the curriculum; the
"edupreneurs" charge children fees in order to make
their efforts sustainable.The ownership of nearly 30% of Akshara's
Balwadis this year has been transferred to the community.
Akshara will also be working with the
Government to try and merge some Balwadis with Anganwadis
(Government pre-schools and creches) to ensure that they don't
duplicate Government services where they exist.