Report looks at how India’s lockdown affected early years services
India’s 2020 Covid lockdown shut schools, creches, Anganwadi centres, parks and playgrounds. What were the impacts on young children, their caregivers and frontline workers, and what can be learned for the future?
A new report, Evidence-based response to early childhood development during the Covid-19 crisis, sets out to answer those questions. Researchers conducted interviews with 10,112 households and 2,916 frontline workers in 2020-21 across 11 Indian states: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
The report finds evidence of significant hardship. For example, one of the roles of Anganwadi centres is providing support with nutrition to young children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, but 47% of households with a child aged 15 months to 6 years said they received either less food or no food from their Anganwadi centre.
Half of parents with children under 5 could not get their children immunised in April 2020. Almost-two thirds of parents with children aged 3 to 6 said they struggled with lack of support for home-based learning. Many parents said they resorted to harsher disciplinary techniques or greater use of technology: a third of children started watching videos or playing screen-based games for the first time in the lockdown.
Between a third and half of frontline workers in different roles reported either having worked longer hours due to the pandemic or experiencing additional stress.
The report makes recommendations, such as helping frontline workers – whose responsibilities often range across health, nutrition, education and caregiving – to prioritise their activities, and making greater efforts to publicly celebrate the value of the work they do. It also identifies opportunities, such as building on greater contact between fathers and young children during lockdown to advocate for a greater role for men in caregiving.
The study was conducted by Dalberg Advisors and Kantar Public, in collaboration with NITI Aayog and supported by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, Porticus, Echidna Giving and Dalberg.