Can you imagine a 50 paisa postcard being used as a channel to rebuild the life of a migrant child? Yes, in this era of internet and e-mail, an NGO is using snail mail to help reintegrate migrant children in their old schools when they return to their villages.
Eight-year-old Bharat Kumar from Jharigaon block in Nabarangpur district came with his family to work in a brick kiln on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar city in December 2015. The boy had been studying in Class 2 in his village primary school but had to drop out to accompany his parents. Fortunately for him, an NGO called Aide et Action enrolled Bharat and other young children like him in schools near the brick kiln in Bhubaneswar so they could keep up with their studies.
In June this year, when Bharat and his parents went back to Nabarangpur, they took with them a letter from the NGO to the headmaster of Bharat’s school, updating him on Bharat’s progress. As a result, the village school admitted Bharat in Class 3.
Bharat also gave his headmaster a postcard addressed to Aide et Action. It had been given to him by the NGO and the headmaster used it to inform the organisation that Bharat had indeed been reintegrated into school in Class 3. Not only Bharat, this year all 1515 children who migrated with their parents will be reintegrated in schools in their source areas by the end of July, hopes Saroj Ku Barik, Programme Officer, MiRC, Aide-et-Action in Bhubaneswar.
Every year, thousands of children from different districts migrate with their families to work at brick kilns in Odisha and other states. Since they stay out of school for 6-8 months, they are unable to cope with their studies once they return; they become dropouts. Unfortunately, some of them also work as child labourers.
To track these migrant children and reintegrate them back into school, Aide-et-Action came up with the idea of using postcards as a means of communication between village schools and the NGO.
“The same idea is applied for children below 6 years of age who get immunisation, take-home rations and other services at their destination places. When they return to their villages, we now have the information to help them reintegrate in nearby anganwadi centres,” says Umi Daniel, Regional Manager, MiRC, Aide-et-Action, Bhubaneswar.
Presently, the organisation is working in four cities – Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, and Hyderabad – with 5,000 migrant children below the age of 14 years, to ensure their health and education rights. Though the postcard concept first started in Chennai, now children migrating from various districts of Odisha are ensured reintegration in schools in their source areas.
“If this idea can be integrated in state and national policies through proper coordination between sending and receiving states of migrants, portability of rights of migrant children will be ensured,” says Mr. Daniel.
Already, he adds, the Tamil Nadu government has adopted the concept in the brick kilns of two other districts of Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram.