NGO helps educate migrant workers' kids

By Praveen Kumar S Published on Jun 20, 2018 05:33 PM IST

Chennai: Ever wondered about children who live at construction sites in our country? The toddlers, born to migrant workers, often have to sacrifice their education due to their unending travel to different parts of the country - if their parents can provide them education, that is.

Recent studies say that a total of 400 million people migrate in India every year in search of work. Fifteen to 20 per cent of them are children, and if infants are taken into account, the number may rise exponentially.

Helping migrant workers is Aide et Action International South Asia (AEAISA), which has been working towards ensuring a quality life for seasonal migrants in India.

Speaking to News Today, director (Migration and Education), Migration Information Resource Center (MIRC), Umi Daniel, said, "AEA is an international agency that has its main office at Geneva. We believe in education and empowerment. For the past 35 years, we have been working to educate the children of migrant workers."

"Caring for them, especially women and child migrants, has been a crucial force driving us," he added.

Daniel said the work to educate children first kicked off in 2009 in a small manner. AEAISA started the child care and learning centre (CCLC) that facilitates children born at construction sites with basic education until the age of six. "We help enrol children aged between six and 14 into government-run schools," he said. 

Due to the language problem, teachers are brought from Odisha by AEAISA to the construction sites. "Since most migrant workers are from Bihar, Odisha and surrounding areas, language is quite an issue. So, we deal with that by bringing in schoolteachers from those States," Daniel said.

The team has helped around 30,000 children until now. But Daniel said there is more to their work than educating children. "AEAISA has been successful in getting government entitlements for the migrant population at brick kilns and construction sites across India," he said.

"No State is recording the number of migrants who enter their territory. Their database is poor. It is only for international migrants that we have a database and proof of documents," he said.

Daniel said not knowing the number of children in such construction sites in the State was a big problem. "It was a huge problem when we started our work. Our study in Hyderabad and Tiruvallur district showed that more than 10,000 children are living in brick kilns in those areas alone."

However, there is hope, Daniel said. "Now, the Tamilnadu government is following our model. We can provide the database to the Government of Odisha as well."

The team has been working in six cities as of now, including Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Hyderabad, Patna and Delhi, apart from Chennai. AEAISA has around 100 staff members and it spends around Rs 1.5 crore annually in helping the children.

CHANGE IN ATTITUDE 

Daniel said brick kiln owners in Tamilnadu have come forward to help their workers. "The workers have rights, they contribute to the economy as well. They should be provided housing and safety. Companies need to put in their CSR money into helping their workers. They need to approach the government and work on the private-public partnership model. This is will help many," he said.