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Odisha: Seasonal Hostels to prevent child migration

 

Monday June 09, 2014

Odisha, Child Labour, Migration, Seasonal Hostel, Education  
 

"The seasonal hostels, known as residential care centre (RCC) in Odisha, started in the year 2001-02 in Balangir district and eventually experimented in the Nuapada district. The idea was that the school going children could stay back with the community and continue their study in the village school when their parents migrate out and thus the loss of education could be staved off."

 

Pradeep Baisakh

 
 

Distressed labour migration from western Odisha districts like Balangir, Nuapada, Bargarh and Kalahandi to other states has been in discussion for last one decade though it all started sometime over thirty years back. Several efforts have been undertaken by the state and non-state actors to prevent distressed migration on one hand and reduce the distress aspects in migration on the other. The major concerns in such migration have been associated with the violation of inter-state migrant workmen’s act, violation of other labour laws, and the third degree of treatment meted out to Odia labourers in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and other states. Still a major area of concern is the compulsive child labour and absence of basic education facilities for these children.

Initial efforts were undertaken by the civil society organisations to protect the education of children, which was eventually accepted by different governments. Two models have been adopted to this end.

 

One is to prevent the children from migrating from the villages by providing them the residential facilities in the village schools during the migration seasons when the parents are away, and the other is to design schools at the worksite to fetch education in mother tongue i.e. in Odia language in this case. While I have dealt in detail on the work site model elsewhere (Click here to see the report), this piece will mainly discuss about the seasonal hostels.

The seasonal hostels, known as residential care centre (RCC) in Odisha, started in the year 2001-02 in Balangir district and eventually experimented in the Nuapada district. The idea was that the school going children could stay back with the community and continue their study in the village school when their parents migrate out and thus the loss of education could be staved off.

RCC is opened in a suitably located school where the children of the migrating parents from three to four nearby village or schools can stay and attend classes there. During the stay of the children in RCC, the mid-day meals are also transferred from the parent school to the school that houses RCC. Initially the RCC model was a joint effort by government and NGOs with the government funding the NGOs to run the RCC. But eventually the government took over the operation and directly ran it. Some like Lok Drishti, an NGO in Nuapada, continued running independently with external funding alongside the government run ones.

Children benefited

Hrudananda Majhi is a student residing since last season at the RCC run by the Lok Drishti in the Khomtarai School in Khariar block of Nuapada district. He studies in class four. A child of regularly migrating parents and born in Hyderabad during a migration period, Hrudananda says, “I could never avail any school facilities in Andhra Pradesh before. Here, I have been staying for last two years when my parents migrate out to work.” Some other children like Sumitra Majhi and Sarat Bhoi, students of in class three and class nine respectively, also stayed in the same hostel last season. In ten such hostels run by the NGO, 253 students were accommodated last season.

Some students like Motiram Tandi and Chudamani Jaga from Khariar block of Nuapada district who have been consistently availing the facilities of seasonal hostels are now studying higher secondary (10+2) in nearby Khariar College. Otherwise, they also would have been migrating and working as semi-bonded labourers in other states.

Phulabai Kumbhar and other three girls from Belpada block of Balangir district, who stayed in the RCC, have now passed higher secondary as well.

Process followed and grey areas

Just before the families start migrating after Diwali (October/November), the block level education staff and NGOs conduct surveys to find out the number of migrant children. The children are then kept in the hostels. The NGOs in Balangir and Nuapada reach out the migrating parents and convince them to leave their children in the hostels.

The children stay in the school premises. A cook and a care-taker are appointed by the government to look after the children. It was when the government and NGOs were running RCCs jointly, the NGOs used to regularly interact with the children and the care taker to ensure that food, clothing, safe stay, first aid box, medical need etc are all put in place. Abani Panigrahi of Lok Drishti says, “At one point, there were more than 70 RCCs run by the government and NGOs accommodating about 1400 children in Nuapada”.

However, in last few years, there is apparently some reluctance in the administration to start RCC every year with beginning of the migration season. This is evident from the fact that district administration starts RCCs after people migrate out. In such case, rarely the migrant children get a place in government run RCCs.

For example, last year (2011-12), Lok Drishti surveyed and submitted a list of 1377 migrant children from a few Panchayats in three blocks namely Sinapali, Khariar and Boden. A resolution to that effect was passed by the respective School Management Committees (SMCs) requesting the government to open RCCs. But RCCs never came up. Similar was the case in Balangir district where barely 10 RCCs were run retaining about 200 students, much less than the need. Sources from Sarva Sikshya Aviyan (SSA), Odisha, suggest that even though a proposal for opening hostels for 3200 migrant students from Balangir, Nuapada and bargarh districts was sent under the head of ‘Residential Care Centre’, it was disapproved by the centre. This happened because Residential Care Centre (RCC) is an incorrect terminology, felt the centre.

This year, seasonal hostels have been approved for a total of 5089 students in Balangir, Nuapada and Bargarh districts under the head of ‘Seasonal Hostel’ which will commence this season.

In the previous years, the government run RCCs used to open in January and February leaving no scope for the migrant children to reap the benefit as they had to migrate two months before the RCCs came up. So, fake enrolments were made in RCCs, suggest information from attendance registers of RCCs attained by Lok Dristi under RTI in Nuapada district. As told by Abani Panigrahi of Lok Dristi, “Cross verification of these attendance registers revealed that some of them were not at all migrant children but actually stayed in their houses.”

Way ahead

Success of seasonal hostels depends on commitment of the government and an active involvement of the community. Survey of the migrant families is the pre-requisite for assessment of the number of prospective migrant families and migrant children. Under the law, tracking the number of migrant labourers is to be done by the labour department of the district. A collective effort by the labour, education and Panchaytiraj departments to survey the migrant children in the migration prone districts would deliver better result. Jatin Patra, a social activist based in Balangir says, “The School management Committee’s involvement at every stage e.g. surveying, beginning of hostels, accommodation of children and running of the hostels, would be the key to their effective functioning.” NGOs’ role in such ventures is also crucial. These steps would save the education of thousands of hapless migrant children and oblige the provisions of the right to education (RTE) law.

[Author is a media fellow of National Foundation of India (NFI) for the year 2012. This article is written as part of the fellowship work. He can be reached by e-mail: 2006pradeep@gmail.com]

 
 

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