Mandira has created the first one-stop space for innovative methods and content for early childhood development. Through her organisation, Sutradhar, she hopes not only multiply their impact, but make learning lively and meaningful for both the teacher and the child.
Mandira founded Sutradhar in 1995 as a national resource center for early childhood education and development, housing materials like toys, games, storybooks, folk toys, teaching aids as well media such as puppetry and storytelling, to help children learn. Today, this resource centre functions as the epicenter of educational materials, media, documentation, and training space for more than 120 groups and organisations, parents or anyone who spends a significant amount of time working with young children. The well-trained staff helps visitors to make the right choices for their children depending on their needs. The centre is in a unique and vibrant space, where experts can identify the gaps in the availability of quality educational material based on differing user needs and then design and develop materials to fill this gap. In this way, Mandira has created and designed early learning kits, math material, and material derived from local culture and knowledge for the use of these diverse groups.
In order for early childhood education to become widespread, Mandira has employed the key strategy of documentation and dissemination of innovations. From collating and documenting government school improvement efforts, to studying the state of Anganwadis and young children in Bangalore and Karnataka, Sutradhar has been creating knowledge channels in the relatively undocumented space of early childhood development. In 1999, Mandira compiled a first-of-its-kind child resource directory called Fingertips. Providing a comprehensive overview of child-related services in the areas of Child development, Education, Health, Disability, Recreation and Support, Fingertips makes it easy for any professional in the sector to access and use a range of services available in Bangalore.
The Sutradhar influence can be felt in the quality and use of play materials in the state-run anganwadis, which have started using Sutradhar’s learning kits. Through the research and advocacy work done by Mandira and her team on the status of anganwadis and the young child, the Karnataka State government has reassesd its stance on early childhood development. Moreover, Mandira’s efforts to consolidate research and connect stakeholders has resulted in NGOs redirecting their focus to improving the state-run anganwadis. To further deepen this impact, she is currently in the process of publishing a book on the media and materials that can be used to identify and address developmental delays early on.
Note: This was updated in June, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile.