- CHILD CARE
Seva Mandir’s work on early childhood care is centered on 187 quality community preschools called Balwadis that cater to the educational, nutritional and all-around developmental needs of children aged 1-5. Each Balwadi is run by a local woman whom Seva Mandir has trained to work with young children. Seva Mandir also runs a Child Representative Program that sends children to school and promotes the participation of children in the community development process. In Udaipur’s urban slums, Seva Mandir has set up a safety net of 16 childcare and extracurricular programs.
Just 28 percent of eligible children attend government preschools. Seva Mandir and M.I.T.’s J-PAL found 60% absenteeism rates among government preschool teachers, and government preschools are only half-day facilities, thus preventing mothers from working or sibling caretakers from studying.
Seva Mandir's Response
We operate 187 Balwadi preschools run by trained women from the community. Our preschools serve areas that government services do not reach, and enroll 4,600 children for a full 7 hours a day, directly benefitting another 3,000 caregivers. Camera monitoring and regular professional development motivate teacher attendance. The curriculum focuses on cognitive, social and school-preparedness skills, and enrollment drives encourage 1,000 “graduating” 5-year-olds to enter primary school every year. Balwadis also meet children’s pressing health needs by providing 2 meals daily, deworming, growth monitoring, and immunization drives (inoculating 2,200 children last year). 9 Village Development Forums contribute financially to their Balwadi, and many others take ownership through monitoring and teacher evaluation. Our preschools have been praised by external evaluations, and held up as a national model in the influential Five Year Plan (2011) of the central government Planning Commission.
- CHILD REPRESENTATIVES
Children in our work area are assigned a rigid and subsidiary place within the family and community. There is usually little room for children to express their views and needs concerning development work in the community.
Seva Mandir’s Response
In close consultation with its Village Development Forums, Seva Mandir has selected over 4,500 child representatives from among the most vulnerable families across 137 villages. Third party sponsors provide funds for the children’s overall care and education, and are used according to each child’s needs. To involve these children in the local development process, active Children’s Forums in 30 villages have seats in their Village Development Forums, allowing children to develop leadership skills, express themselves and sensitize community leaders to children’s needs and concerns.
- URBAN SLUMS
Slums, in Udaipur City as elsewhere, usually lack safe spaces for children to play and study. The exceptional pressures of urban poverty can also cause extreme distress in children.
Seva Mandir’s Response
In addition to four Seva Mandir preschools and a primary school, we run 11 after-school tutoring centers in Udaipur’s slums. These centers provide extracurricular support to 220 children of poor and illiterate parents, and are lifelines for many children who might otherwise drop out of school. Each center houses a library and also organizes cultural, athletic and artistic activities. Seva Mandir also runs a government-sponsored CHILDLINE, a phone helpline for children in distress. CHILDLINE received 741 calls in 2012-13 from children seeking protection from abuse, medical care and shelter among other issues.
- Nurturing Childhood (video)