As Odisha grapples with a drought-like situation in its western districts, about 700 children of brick kiln workers from that region working in Telangana are preparing to return home. But this time they all have certificates showing that they have attended school here and passed the 2018-19 academic year. These certificates are valid in Odisha, and several of these students will join school this academic year in their native places. All of them hail from Bolangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi, and Nabrangpur, which are facing drought-like conditions for the past three years. Once they are back in the education system of Odisha, the children may escape child labour.
The worksite schools for children of brick kiln migrant workers were established by Aide et Action, district collectors of Rangareddy and Yadadri, Telangana Brick Kiln Owners Association, and Rachakonda Police Commissionerate, in 2016. But this is the first time that the students have received certificates which are recognised by Odisha Government and the district education officers will enable the children to join schools there.
The 700-odd children are 6 to 14 years of age and 90 per cent of them passed class 5 this academic year while a few passed class 6 and 7 in the worksite schools.
Rachakonda Police Commissioner Mahesh M Bhagwat, who first took the initiative to start the schools, said they prevent children of workers from becoming child labour. “Instead of working alongside their parents in the kilns, the children are receiving education. In the schools they are also provided nutritious food in the form of mid-day meals. This initiative is aimed at giving the kids of migrant workers quality education and prevent them from falling into the child labour trap,’’ Bhagwat said.
On Wednesday, the 700-odd children received their certificates and new footwear in a small ceremony held at various worksite schools. Daniel Umi, Regional Head-Migration Thematic Unit, South Asia at Aide et Action, who played a key role in establishing the Odiya-medium schools in Telangana, said they worked with Odisha government officials for several months to persuade them to recognise the certificates.
“They finally agreed and now the kids can resume from the next class in Odisha. The certificate we are giving states the school where the child studied, class, and has the name and photo. We are issuing letters to the District Education Officers stating that the child belongs to migrant workers. Once the children are in Odisha they will join the `Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan’,’’ Daniel Umi said.
The teachers in these worksite schools are mostly volunteers from Odisha, while some are hired and teach children in their mother tongue making it easier for them to learn. “These volunteers will go back to Odisha with the children and work for at least 1 and half months to help them re-integrate into the education system there,’’ Umi said. He said another 600 children in worksite schools in Tamil Nadu will also return home this week.
“These worksite schools ensure that till the time parents of the children are at work, they are taken care of at school, in this way the initiative not only allows the parents of the children to do work but also allows the children to inch towards productive progress,’’ Bhagwat said.
The children studying in the worksite schools are also introduced to the outside world. For instance, on May 14, Rachakonda Police Commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat took 50 students studying in schools under his jurisdiction to watch the IPL match at Uppal Stadium between SRH and DC. On May 23, some 50-odd children were taken to the Infosys campus at Pocharam to see the facility and interact with employees. “This exposure to the outside world may be an inspiration for a few of these children,’’ Umi said. Bhagwat bagged the prestigious award of International Association of Chief of Police Civil and Human Rights Award 2018.