Education of children below the age of 6 years (the years of maximum brain development) has been the oft-neglected part of our education system. Most of the budget allocations by government as well as private sectors focus on education of children of 6-14 years as per the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and Right to Education. There is a long-felt need in the country to promote and spread awareness about the importance of early childhood education. Sesame Street, an educational NGO functioning across over 150 countries is now a torchbearer in the field, with its Indian counterpart working in India for almost a decade now.
Sesame Street’s Indian version “Galli Galli Sim Sim” focuses on creating high quality educational material for children within the age group of 0-8 years, especially for those from the marginalized sections of the community. For a holistic development of the young child, it focuses on language and literacy skills essential for lifelong learning along with physical health, hygiene and nutrition and social- emotional skills development – which is a part of the whole child curriculum.
Majorly a content development organization, Sesame Street works in partnership with other organizations and collaborates with government primary schools and anganwadi to improve the educational outcome of children, build capacity of educators and address families and communities to provide a supportive environment for learning. Rigorous research is conducted and technology is used for monitoring and evaluation. For example, Mobile technology and voice recognition systems etc. are used to collect data and information from the field. Equipping the participants with tablets and 3G connectivity has also immensely enabled them to accumulate information on real-time basis. Further, continuous association with the anganwadi teachers enables the understanding of the prevailing complications, thus facilitating solution- building processes.
Apart from working towards shifting the paradigm on early childhood education, Sesame also works to engage communities with health, hygiene and nutrition related issues such as good sanitation practices. One of Sesame’s projects based in Kolkata, called “Raho Swach, Jiyo Mast”, is an example of how the organization reaches out to the community not only for awareness but also to implement their projects which aim to empower children as change agents for improved sanitation practices. The Kolkata project alone has managed a reach of more than 50 thousand children in various slums of the city.
The major criteria for Sesame to enter into collaborations with other organizations, is the scope of participation and implementation of projects at the ground level. It partners with NGOs and supports them in capacity- building, training of their facilitators, monitoring and supervision, and creation and maintenance of infrastructure. Sesame also credits radio for having been instrumental in its vision of connecting with the people. Community radio as well as All India Radio when combined with mobile technology has given impactful results in unique ways. It works as a mechanism to get feedback from the community.
Undoubtedly, Sesame has set forth a leading example of how a little improvisation of available resources and technology can help the community get in sync with the on-going economic and technological development. With more than 14 lakh anganwadi centres and countless number of primary schools in India, we still strive to achieve the basic level of education. Therefore, we need more initiatives like Sesame to plan and implement projects which are not only beneficial at present, but will have an impression even after they are long gone.
The article is based on CSR Times’ telecommunication with Ms Sashwati Banerjee, Managing Director, Sesame Workshop in Indiat.
Image copyright Sesame Workshop India.