Vanasthali Rural Development Centre (VRDC); Pune, Maharashtra
Contact: Ms. Sushama Sathaye
August 2016 – August 2017
VRDC, which focuses on early childhood development and related teacher training, is running 20 balwadis (pre-schools) for 500 rural children aged 3-6. Teachers are recruited from the same communities as the children come from.
Here is the vision of Vanasthali’s founder, social activist Nirmalatai Purandare:
“The child in the city is groomed into the process of education. Play groups that are conducted for children in the age bracket of 3 to 6 years mold the child to function as a member of a group and ready him for the process of learning. However, this preparation for socialization, so to say, is almost always absent in villages. Because primary education is compulsory, the child is picked up at the age of 6 and put into a school. But he has neither been groomed to accept schooling nor is he ready. Consequently, the dropout rate is high in the subsequent years. What we need is a grooming ground for the rural child, similar to what his urban counterpart has.
But who will teach him? City teachers do not find it feasible to travel all the way to villages to teach. Hence the best way out is to provide local residents some minimum training, and urge them to take on the mantle of teaching. And we decided it has to be the woman taking on this role, as educating a woman is often the path to educating her entire family too. That was how the idea of the ‘Balwadi teacher’ took root.”