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Mobile Crèches: Caring for Children of Construction Workers

Imagine a child. You see a happy face. The image of a child flashes across one’s mind as that of a happy, carefree, innocent face with sparkling eyes. It conjures up a picture of a dreamlike life. But what if this picture suddenly fades away, ruthlessly replaced by a child lying in the mud, unfed and uncared for, breathing dust filled air and not knowing whom to call out for help? Thousands of children of construction workers today lead such an unnatural, inhuman life, as they struggle to survive. How can their lives be cared for?

Mobile Crèches with their vision of all children to have a nurturing and happy childhood and the mission to promote ‘child-friendly sites’, is working towards a future where every child living on a construction site is safe, healthy and educated, and able to enjoy their childhood. It is a mammoth task, but certainly not impossible.

Mobile Crèches is working towards a future where every child living on a construction site is safe, healthy and educated, and able to enjoy their childhood

Mobile Crèches was founded by Meera Mahadevan in 1969 in Delhi with the belief that every child has the fundamental right to security, education, health care and protection. A housewife at the time, she was passing a construction site when she was struck by the sight of a baby lying unattended and exposed to the harsh heat. The next day, she set up a tent, hired some help and started the first Mobile Crèche. This initiated a social movement whose guiding principle was – Early Childhood Matters.

In April 2007, after over three decades of working as one organisation, Mobile Crèches has split into three separate entities – Mobile Crèches (Delhi), Mumbai Mobile Crèches and Tara Mobile Crèches (Pune). Devika Mahadevan, a member of the Board of the Mumbai Mobile Crèches has been officially associated with the movement for five years. The former CEO explains, “My grandmother Rukmini Mahadevan was instrumental in setting up the movement in Mumbai. In fact she had also roped in my other grandmother and my father, who was on the Board too. The movement is special because there is no other organisation especially catering to the migrant population on construction sites. Their problems largely remain ignored. Now that education has been declared a right and every child above the age of six should be sent to school, we feel that we can act as facilitators and give these children of labourers and migrants a better future. One of the initiatives we started was to train women on construction sites to become teachers. Presently we have 28 centres in Mumbai and 40% of our teachers are from the construction sites. Our in-house training programme provides 11 months of on the job training to these women.”


Age Appropriate Learning

Founded on the principle of ‘Early Childhood Matters’, the Mobile Crèches has developed a comprehensive day care service programme that meets children´s emotional, physical, cognitive and social development needs, and has pioneered the first Early Child Care Education (ECCE) programme for migrant workers´ children in this country. Over the past four decades they have worked in close partnership with parents, the construction industry, labour communities, government agencies and concerned NGOs to promote child rights.

Children at the Mobile Creche
Children at the Mobile Creche

Devika adds, “We have a special programme for children below 3 to make sure they are healthy. Then we also have preschool activities and health nutrition simulation. We also try to send students to municipal schools after a certain age. A survey revealed that we have children from 17 different states on one site and hence, language becomes a big barrier for these students when mainstreaming. However, they can pick up the language rather comfortably as they are still in their learning years.”

Mobile Crèches believes that learning starts at birth and continues through pre-school and formal schooling to equip the child for life. In the year 2007-8, they reached 5000 children, in 08-09, they reached 5500 children and in 09-10, they reached over 6000 children. Devika shares her future plans and hopes to keep the expansion plans going. At the same time, she hopes to work more closely with government departments to champion the cause of the organisation. Children on construction sites might have to overcome many more hardships than the others but they too, truly deserve the same opportunity. Thanks to the Mobile Crèches, their future is in safe hands!


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