First, state Level Workshop on Meghalaya’s Early Childhood Development Mission held

First, state Level Workshop on Meghalaya's Early Childhood Development Mission held

Shillong, Sep 26: A one-day State Level Workshop on Meghalaya’s Early Childhood Development Mission was held on September 26, 2022 at Yojana Bhawan, Main Secretariat Building, Shillong. The workshop commenced with the theme “Unleashing every child’s full potential for a bright tomorrow”. This is the first time that a state level workshop for MECDM was held. It may be mentioned that Meghalaya is one of the first states in India to have conceptualized the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Mission, a holistic lifecycle approach targeted at overall development of children- right from the preconception period till the age of eighteen. It was launched formally in December 2021.

Addressing the gathering as the keynote speaker, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma laid down the Government’s vision of making Meghalaya one of the top 10 states in India in terms of developmental indicators. He said that every scheme and mission being implemented in the State is interconnected. The initiatives undertaken by the Government through many interventions for women & mothers, children & youth is a long-term goal to address the challenges in the State in achieving the vision to make Meghalaya one of the Top 10 States in the country.

He stated that the Meghalaya Early Childhood Development Mission is a pioneering programme and taking cues from the same, four other Indian states have also begun to conceptualize their own state ECD initiatives. He expressed pride in the fact that Meghalaya is emerging as a trailblazer for other states to follow, and that this is one of the many initiatives being taken up to improve the developmental indicators of the state.

The Chief Minister emphasized on the importance of working on a mission mode as opposed to the generic schematic approach towards improving developmental indicators. With respect to Meghalaya’s Early Childhood Development Mission, he encouraged all stakeholders present in the State Level ECD Workshop to adopt a mission-mode approach in implementing the Mission, to work with purpose, clear outcomes and in a time-bound manner.

The Principal Secretary and Development Commissioner, Mr. Sampath Kumar IAS spoke at length about the mission, vision and journey of the MECDM. He laid emphasis on the fact that the MECDM is not just a human development programme but more so, an economic development programme, that is focused upon building the cognitive capital of the state’s future through a holistic and strategic intervention. Meghalaya’s ECD Mission is a multidisciplinary, research based approach which will not only lead to a holistic development of a child but also to overcome poverty and inter-generational gap. The ECD mission focuses not only on the child but also on parents and propagates the 1000 days gap period in terms of birth spacing, including responsible parenthood, which is crucial for the well being of the mothers as well as the children.

He stated that the MECDM begins its intervention even before the birth of the child, at the conception period, whereby the health and well being of women occupies the crux of the mission, by focusing on providing socio emotional support to women. Sharing the vision of MECDM, he added that this is a unique intervention which is being implemented through the collaborative approach of four Government Departments namely: The Social Welfare, Community & Rural Development, Education and Health & Family Welfare Departments. He said that this mission is a shared purpose of the State that requires proactive support from all quarters.

He also informed that the MECDM is unique in the sense that for the first time, Meghalaya has taken the initiative to cover 1500+ uncovered villages under the ICDS programme since the year 1975. This is being done by building the capacity of the Self Help Group network across the state to provide ECD services and growth monitoring. He said that currently, the state has a network of more than 40,000 women-led SHGs which acts as a huge social capital for taking forward the vision and mission of the MECDM.

The progress of the MECDM was also highlighted in detail, with some key areas being the following: 1) Egg distribution to children, pregnant and nursing mothers under ICDS launched on August 15, 2022 to complement the existing SNP of the ICDS- Social Welfare Department. The aim is to effect healthy diet spillover to a majority of the households, especially in rural areas. It may be mentioned here that about 46% of Meghalaya’s children are stunted as per NFHS-5 (2019). This has come down to 24% as per Poshan Survey 2022. 2) ECD Day and Parent Circles at the community level pilot interventions. Here parents are trained on the importance of early childhood development and meaningful interaction with children. Involvement of the fathers or the men folk is emphasized upon. 3) Covering 1500+ villages under the ICDS programme for the first time. 4) Launch of ECD helpline number to call parents at least 21 times over the 1st 1000 days for counseling on healthy practices and information on available services.

It may be mentioned that the ECD Mission has undertaken to bring a state-of-the-art approach to early childhood- using science-based methods to strengthen cognitive development, such as positive parenting and joyful learning, combined with improved nutrition, and mental stimulation.

The workshop witnessed participation from the officials of Departments of Social Welfare, Community & Rural Development, Education and Health & Family Welfare Departments as well as District and block level officials from the State, including resource persons from outside the state. The inaugural session of the MECDM workshop also witnessed a welcome address by Commissioner & Secretary to the Social Welfare Department, Pravin Bakshi followed by an address from the Commissioner & Secretary of the Education Department, B. K Tiwari. The logo of MECDM was also launched during this session.

Following the inaugural session, Dr. Sabrina Yesmin, member of IAP, Meghalaya set the context on Early Childhood Development (ECD). This was followed by a detailed presentation by Dr. Venita Kaul, Executive Member, ECD Mission on Science of ECD and the early years. Ms. Sinjie Marak, ECCE Coordinator, Education Department gave a session on Early Childhood Education in Meghalaya.

Dr. Jayanti Prakash from Sesame Workshop spoke on the concepts of Early learning and whole child curriculum- Getting children ready for school and life. Learnings through various experiences and practices- a brief on the study by Ekjut on how they were able to reduce the prevalence of wasting, underweight and stunting after various interventions was shared by Mr. Amit Kumar, Dr. Dhanashrii Bagal and Ms. Suchitra Rath from Ek Jutt team, Jharkhand. A session with the International Institute of Population Science (IIPS), Mumbai was also held with Prof. U. Mishra, IIPS. Later, there was a participatory session where the district teams and other participants gave suggestions on better implementation of the MECDM. The workshop ended with concluding remarks and a way forward by COO-MECDM, Mr. Ronald Kynta