The new protocol could herald a silent change in the community, focused on early intervention and inclusive education
In a significant move, the government unveiled a national protocol on Tuesday aimed at training anganwadi workers to identify and assist children with disabilities.
According to Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani, this marks the first instance where anganwadi workers will actively raise awareness on this issue. Speaking at the launch of the Anganwadi Protocol for Divyang Children, she stated, "If we look at it from a community perspective, it is a silent revolution in our community."
Irani emphasised that the new protocol would empower anganwadi workers to convey that disability is not a societal challenge but an opportunity for collective support. "The mindset needs to be changed," she added.
Highlighting the significance of early intervention, Irani referenced the National Education Policy 2020, which underscores the importance of integrating diverse students into mainstream schools. "We know 85 percent of a child's mental development happens by the age of 6. Today, our education system has new provisions for divyang children…," she remarked.
Grassroots-level data about divyang children will now be accessible through anganwadi workers, facilitating tracking through the Poshan tracker, Irani explained. The anganwadi system, reaching over eight crore children daily from birth to six years, is a critical access point for nurturing the country's young population.
The government's focus on integrating Divyang students into mainstream education aligns with the National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage 2022 and the Draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) (2021). The Poshan Bhi Padhai Bhi programme, following the national ECCE Taskforce recommendation, advocates play-based and activity-based learning pedagogy, providing timely support for divyang children.
Addressing the preventability of disabilities, the Draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities notes that one-third of disabilities in India can be prevented with early detection and adequate intervention.
With a targeted approach to strengthening the foundation for future generations, the 'Poshan Bhi Padhai Bhi' programme aims to upskill 13.9 lakh anganwadi centres, adopting a multi-sensory and toy-based approach to cater to diverse child needs.