Without documents, most migrant workers’ children find access to education elusive

For migrant workers from other states, getting access to education for their children is impossible their lack of documentation like local address proof

Over the last three decades, India has seen an increase in internal migration, from 232.11 million in 1991 to 314.54 million in 2001 and to 455.78 million in 2011. The total number of migrant children, between the census of 1991 and 2011, grew from 44.35 million to 92.95 million. As per these figures, one in every five internal migrants is a kid. A majority of whom do not get access to basic education. 

Dilip Kumar Anurag, 37 from Bilaspur, Chattisgarh, who came to Bengaluru about a year back, lives in a kucha shack with his wife and two of his five children near the brick factory where he works. His three other kids are back home with their grandparents. His 9-5 job at the brick factory, where he makes 700-800 bricks daily earns him Rs 700 per day for 25 days a month. “I do not work on a rainy day”, says Dilip.  He also does not get paid for days he has to skip work due to rains.

Dilip’s son Sushank Kumar Anuragi,13, who lives with him here, dropped out of school in class 7. “But every month I recharge his mobile phone and he is studying on his mobile phone,” said Dilip. “Sushank chote bacche ko dekhta hai jab hum kaam pe rahte hain” (Sushank also takes care of the little boy, Amit,13 months, while we are at work).

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Dilip’s eldest son Sonu Kumar Auragi, 15, is in Chattisgarh with his grandparents and is in class 9, and his daughter Anmol in class 2. “I came here to find employment”, says Dilip. “The pandemic caused me to lose my earlier job as a bike mechanic in a garage, in Bilaspur. My first priority is to fulfill the basic needs of food and shelter. After that, I will think of educating my children”.

Because of the instability of their living situation, Dilip’s children are unable to attend regular classes.

Language issues

The two children of Raghuveer Joshi, 32, also from Chattisgarh, face a similar situation. Both kids dropped out of school in class 2 back in their village. “Kahan school, kaise sab chalta, language kya, kuch pata nahi hai ”(where school, what language), says Raghuveer, who arrived here two months back. He too works in a brick factory and earns the same as Dilip.

Before coming to Bengaluru, Raghuveer worked as a labourer decorating “pooja pandals” during festival seasons and returning to his native place to work as farm labour as and when work was available. “I will go back to my native place after completing my work here,” says Raghuveer.

Temporary or seasonal migration accounts for a sizable share of India’s internal migration. As they move from place to place in search of work, their young children usually drop out or never start school. Raghuveer belongs to this group of seasonal migrants and his children never get to go to school.

man with child in a village house
Raghuveer Joshi, 32, says “Kahan school Kaise sab chalta, language kya kuch pata nahi hai ”(where school, what language), when asked about education of his two children. As Raghuveer moves from place to place in search of work, his kids never get to go to school. Pic: Majid Sohaib

The exception

At another construction site Vikas Kumar, 52, from Rajasthan, came to Bengaluru 15 years back and lives in Sarjapur in a small apartment. Working as a mason and tiles setter, he earns around Rs 20000-22000 per month. His wife had passed away in the second wave of the pandemic, leaving behind three children for Vikas to look after.

His daughter Rupa Kumari, 20 who has passed intermediate level is married. One son Dinesh Kumar, 22, is doing a BA from a government college in Bengaluru and the other son, Manoj Kumar,15, is in class 10. “Shuru me language nahi aati thi, magar yahan kam karte karte ab seekh gaye hain (Earlier, it was difficult to converse in the local language, but over years of working in the city, I have picked it up),” says Vikas.

Vikas’s family has a local address proof, Aadhaar card, ration card and birth certificate. With these documents, his children get access to a government school. “Educating my children is my dream,” says Vikas. “I faced many difficulties earlier but somehow managed to get all the necessary documents, making it possible to educate my children. But it is not so easy for non-educated parents”.

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The difficulty for newcomers like Dilip in getting access to education for their children is their inability to secure documentation like local address proof, and inability to communicate in the local language. Which people like Vikas have overcome because of their long stay here and some stability in their living conditions.

  • International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families(1990) “Each child of a migrant worker shall have the basic right of access to education on the basis of equality of treatment with nationals of the State concerned. Access to public preschool educational institutions or schools shall not be refused or limited by reason of the irregular situation with respect to staying or employment of either parent or by reason of the irregularity of the child’s stay in the State of employment.” 
  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 provides for the free and compulsory elementary education of equitable quality to all children of 6-14 age group, including the children of migrant workers. Under this provision, the government should provide elementary education.
  • The Karnataka government’s “student achievement tracking system” (SATS) is meant to keep records of a intra-state migrant worker’s child, especially if the child stops coming to school. The system is meant to keep a record of students whose parents have migrated to another city and ensure they get admitted to the school. But this is for those domiciled in the state only. The government created this portal during the pandemic in order to record academic and other details of local students.
  • According to Shivana, admission in charge of Sardar vallabhai Patel middle school, Sarjapur, “to get admission students should have a transfer certificate from their last attending school for both inter-state and intra-state. There is no need for address proof if they have a transfer certificate. But students who do not have any documents, either a transfer certificate or any last attended school document don’t get admission”. Shivana added that English, Kannada and Hindi options are available as medium of instruction for every student.

NGOs working on education of migrant workers’ children

“Gubbachi” is an organisation with the aim “To create positive, meaningful learning experiences for marginalised children and enable them to break the cycle of poverty through education”.

Starting in May 2015, Gubbachi Connect is the organisation’s flagship programme designed to integrate out-of-school children into mainstream Government schools. The uncertain and unstable lives of migrant workers set back the learning levels of their children, often leading to them dropping out of school.

Their year-long bridge programme provides a safe space for the child to catch up on learning and transition confidently into mainstream classrooms. These bridge centres run on full-day schedules, in dedicated spaces in government schools. A dynamic and individualised curriculum in Kannada, English and Maths, enables the child to learn at her own pace.

Children continue learning from where they left off when they return from their visits home. Learning happens in small groups with an anchor teacher. Enrichment activities like art and sports along with field trips broaden the child’s horizon. Nutrition and safe transport support the child’s school experience, according to Rizwan Ahmad, co-founder of the organisation.

There are other civil society organisations too that work with the migrant children. But their efforts are naturally limited in scope. Without active state help, these children will continue to remain outside the regular education system.

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