Human development and institutional practices : Women, child care and the Mobile Creches
Abstract: This study presents an analysis of the everyday activities of an Indian Nongovernmental Organization (NGO), the Mobile Creches (MC). NGO' s - societal institutions which have grown in prominence in the post-World War II era - are primarily involved in providing services for marginalized sections of different southern nations. As an activity system, MC is a product of the social changes which accompany internal migration andthe growth of urban nuclei, phenomena which are characteristic of economic restructuring. MC was primarily instituted in 1969 to cater to the needs of large numbers of migrant construction labourers children in three Indian cities - Bombay, Delhi and Pune.The field work for this research was conducted in the early 1990's, a period when social change was accelerated in India due to rapid economic restructuring. Using ethnographic methodological approaches such as participant observation and interviewing people in their different everyday working arenas, MC has been analyzed primarily from two different, but complementary, perspectives. Firstly, it is accounted for as an organization for child care specifically aimed at providing services for underprivileged children in urban areas. And secondly, it is analyzed as an activity system in which women. are significantly involved. A dual thrust exists within the second perspective: the first of these is related to women's participation in public and private spheres of child care work; and the second pertains to issues related to literacies as a dimension of the distribution of knowledge in society. Thus, the work reported here is based upon an exploration of the social patterning of discursive practices within MC. In other words, its second main thrust lies in the study of the activities of MC as a community based development centre where women, who often have low qualifications for the labour market, gain access to arenas, where they can assume responsibilities for complex tasks that go into the running of the organization and its creche centres.In everyday life human beings do not read and write without a purpose. This study of situated learning and literacies has documented why, when, where and how, the women staff at MC read, write and use texts. The role of reading and writing in the lives of the un-schooled construction labourers is also explored. In the course of their MC work, the staff are required to function as decision makers, teachers, extension workers, fund raisers, health workers, etc. And it is by making available special contexts, in terms of administrative duties and instructional duties, that MC provides concrete possibilities for training and practise on tasks which require advanced literate competencies. It is in this sense that MC functions as an institutional arena which sustains different literacies in theeveryday lives of its workforce.
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