<img src="200406_AanganwadiWorkHeader.png" alt="School children washing hands India">

The Community Rooted Education (CoRE) pilot initiative to train rural government educators started with a 10-day training in early 2018. The 58 Aanganwadi teachers embraced their new found knowledge and transformed the Aanganwadi centres into Montessori environments. The training was then followed up by monthly mentoring, which continued until March 2019. Due to a change in government, it was then no longer possible to go back to mentor the teachers. 

In January 2020, I got to know that the new government was asking the teachers to change the Aanganwadi centers back. A small number of teachers changed the setup and got back to old ways, while the others tried to explain to the officials the positive changes in the behaviour of the children and refused to change. Motivated by these teachers, we formed a WhatsApp group with all the 58 teachers to reiterate Montessori principles and practice and to continue communication and stay within their reach when they needed support. The teachers started sharing videos and pictures of their work with children. We then discussed one center at a time, sometimes it went on for a whole week before we moved to the next center. It was spontaneous discussion based on what kind of questions were asked. Little did I know then that this would come in handy later. I enquired about the welfare of the children with the country on lockdown due to the corona virus, which also includes the closure of the Aanganwadi centres.

The Aanganwadi teachers shared that as part of their duty they are distributing grains and pulses to make sure that the children get a nutritious meal. During their visit, they are reminding the children how important it is to wash their hands with soap and to cover their mouth and nose with their bent elbow when they cough or sneeze. The activities of care of self, care of the environment and grace and courtesy were covered during the CoRE training. We showed them the activity of  washing hands, elaborately following all the steps and they all practised washing hands with a lot of passion and attention to detail. We showed them how to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze also showed them the exact way of coughing inside the elbow. Our main focus was personal hygiene and keeping he environment clean. The Montessori materials were only given to the centers after they cleaned up their space and also set up care of self activities for the children. This is purely a blessing in disguise, we started online mentoring just two months before it became the only option due to government restrictions ordering people to stay at home. We are also grateful that we prioritised hygiene during the training. In this extraordinary time, we will continue to support the Aanganwadi teachers in any way we can.