I was travelling to North Delhi for the Centre’s project on “Early Learning and Development Standards” (ELDS) for validation of the ELDS tool. I witnessed a scene which disturbed me being a professional in the field of early childhood care and education, especially after knowing that “first years of life are critical for later outcomes”. A young girl was sitting next to her mother who was cleaning the footpath on a highway. Out of curiosity I started observing her. She must have been approximately three-years-old. She stood up and started moving around–my eyes followed her. Now she found an object of interest–-a plastic tin with some dirty water in it. Having conducted assessments with children in her age group, my mind immediately began to put the activity as an item under the domain of curiosity/exploration/experimentation or so on. However, watching her, I was afraid because I thought that the child was about to drink that dirty water. Sitting in an air conditioned bus stuck in traffic I could do nothing about it. Luckily the mother noticed, she scolded her, threw the plastic tin away and went back to work. The child remained calm and composed and continued to move around. I was relieved!
Next day I observed a nomadic family near road side. A young child (approximately three year old) was lying on a bed. Some family members were also sitting beside him. Somebody was cooking; somebody was smoking and so on. Then, a man (maybe an acquaintance) joined them. Seeing the child in the bed he started tickling the boy by repeatedly touching his private parts. I was disturbed.
Often I witness such incidents from the surroundings. The cliché statement that ‘Each child is unique and different not only in their appearance, but also in how they develop and grow’ will not save you every time and will not ensure your peace of mind. You will not get a solid sleep after seeing a one-year-old or two-years-old sleeping on the streets. You cannot enjoy your meal when the starving eyes of a four-year-old follow you from the street.
It is a known fact that young children have an innate desire to learn. That desire can be supported or undermined by early experiences. The exposure and living environment of each child do have a vital role in their growth and development. Policies and programmes are designed to provide children with the best start in life by ensuring healthy atmosphere and by equipping their caregivers, teachers, practitioners and parents with information and knowledge to ensure children’s early experiences at home and in the institutionalized forms of care and education are appropriate. But every day most of us are encountering one or another child in the street who are even deprived of the basic amenities. These regular scenes silently but clearly communicate that the benefits of our policies and provisions are not reaching them. As a parent, teacher, trainer, administrator, educator, policy maker, or child care provider, one knows how important are the first years of life in a child’s development and learning.
Sadly I don’t have any solution. Let us deliberate to comeup with some ideas which can be turned into action. Let us open our eyes to the ‘other’ next to us.
Written By: Aneesh Kurian, CECED, Ambedkar University Delhi. He can be reached at email@example.com
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely of the author. This is not necessarily CECED’s point of view but only reported by CECED.