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Sarah Schoffel building schools with disadvantaged communities in India

By March 6, 2019May 8th, 2019Alumni stories

Sarah Schoffel, a 2017 graduate, tells us about her experience working with The Anganwadi Project, an organization that designs and builds ‘anganwadi’ pre-schools in the slum areas of Ahmedabad, India.

— Sarah Schoffel

I am currently in India for The Anganwadi Project (TAP), an Australian NGO that over the last 12 years has designed and built 16 ‘anganwadi’ or pre-schools in the slum areas of Ahmedabad, India. Recently TAP has formed a new partnership with Spanish/Indian NGO, Rural Development Trust (RDT) who want to use TAP’s anganwadi expertise to design and build anganwadi in rural villages in Andhra Pradesh in southern India.

Anganwadi are much more than just preschools. They are important community centres working to establish programs in early childhood education, nutrition, hygiene, vaccination, mother and baby healthcare and general children’s health and wellbeing, both psychological and physical. They are also an important meeting place for mothers and regularly offer programs for teen girls and older women as well. This education together with the connections formed through meeting helps to empower women in their communities.

Regularly attending an anganwadi gives children a head start at school and helps to foster an appreciation of the benefits of education in the broader community, which in turn has a positive impact on school drop-out rates. The anganwadi we will build here in Andhra Pradesh are in a rural context rather than an urban slum but we are still working with some of the most disadvantaged sectors of the local community. There are high proportions of people from both scheduled tribes (minorities) and scheduled castes (previously ‘untouchables’) in these communities. Literacy levels are low, especially amongst women (average 19%).

My role is to help establish this new partnership ‘on the ground’ by designing and coordinating the construction of the first TAP Anganwadi in rural Andhra Pradesh. Together with my TAP partner, architect Allison Stout, we are working closely with professional staff at RDT and local village communities to select a site, design, document and build the first TAP/RDT anganwadi. The hope is to complete the first anganwadi by mid-2019 and then go on in future years to design and build many more.

– Sarah Schoffel, 2017 Graduate