Kasturi is an 8-year-old studying in the Government Primary School in Tirupati town of Andhra Pradesh, India.
She is the youngest of a family of four. Her parents names are Srinivas and Lakshmi and her sister is Sangeeta. Sangeeta is in class 9th and Kasturi is in class 3rd.
Teachers in the primary school remember Sangeeta as an intelligent and active student and Kasturi as not so bright as her elder sister. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂSangeeta was one of our bright students in the primary school and she was very active and still is, since I hear a lot of good things about her from her teachers in High School,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ says Chandra Kala, teacher at the primary school who also teaches Kasturi.
Kasturi is a slow learner and was promoted to class 3 after she spent two years trying to complete class 2. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂEven though she is in class 3 now, she still struggles with words and Math. She cannot keep up with even the class 2 students.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ observes Chandra Kala. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂA lack of proper care for the children usually hampers childrenÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs ability to grasp and slows down the pace of learning. There are a lot of children like Kasturi.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
Early childhood development, defined as the period from birth up to eight years of age, is a critical window of opportunity for a childÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs cognitive, social and language skills, as well as lifelong approaches to learning. Evidence shows that 85 per cent of brain growth occurs in the first five years of life. Optimal development therefore requires for a child to receive good care in the first years of life.
To understand the difference in the ability to learn in the siblings it is imperative to look into the history of the family. Srinivas and Lakshmi are from a farming community and were agricultural labourers and solely depended on the daily wages. Even though the wages were as low as Rs. 100 per day, Srinivas could provide for his wife and his daughter Sangeeta. The eldest daughter was very well taken care for various reasons like moderate economic situation, the first born and constant care of the mother as she was not a regular earner in the family.
As time passed by Lakshmi got pregnant and was expecting twins. The financial condition of the family went from bad to worse. Finding a job became very difficult for Srinivas so he moved to the nearest town Tirupati and did menial jobs which barely met the family needs. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂWe went through very bad phase in life. We had very little to eat and there were times we were hungry for days,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ says Srinivas. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂAt times I really felt very sad as I could not provide for my pregnant wife.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
The couple had twins, Kasturi and her sister and Kasturi was a Low Birth Weight baby. The couple lost one of the twin daughters when she was ten months old. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂI use to breast-feed my children but my milk wasnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt enough for both of them. We didnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt have enough food then.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ recollects Lakshmi.
Srinivas is now able to provide for his family but his helplessness to provide for his children in the most significant stages of their lives left Kasturi a slow learner and struggling to compete with her classmates. Kasturi is a year behind her friends and classmates.
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂI have been KasturiÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs teacher for two years now. There is no major improvement in her learning and itÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs been very slow. She has difficulty writing but can identify alphabets and pictures,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ says Chandra Kala.
The Head Master of the school strongly believes that nutritious food plays a vital role in childrenÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs learning. He cites two bright students in the class and enquires their food habits and finds that both the students are well taken care of.
The times are changing at SrinivasÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs household for good. Srinivas and his wife are able to provide for their two children and hoping that Kasturi will compete with her fellow students in the class. Srinivas is determined to fulfil his daughterÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs wish to become a doctor and to be first one to get an injection from her.