It is easy to enrol them in school, but difficult to retain them

It is around noon and a noisy bunch of boys are playing lagori in a small colony nestling between tall buildings in Papareddy Palya near Nagarabhavi II Stage.

Some distance away, 13-year-old Basalingamma, daughter of a migrant labourer from Raichur, is watching the boys, carrying her elder sister’s six-month-old son on her hip. The colony has close to 30 sheds and makeshift houses, and is home to migrant labourers from Yadgir, Gulbarga and Raichur districts.

‘Smart’ girl stays home

Basalingamma shies away as we try to strike up a conversation. She asks us to speak to someone ‘smarter’, pointing to 12-year-old Halamma. Asked what makes Halamma smarter, Basalingamma says that she manages to do the daily chores, such as washing clothes, fetching water and cooking, all by herself.

We asked Buddamma (60), a relative, whether ‘smart’ Halamma has been to school. She replies: “There was never a thought of enrolling her as her parents and relatives need to leave home as early as 6 in the morning. She would have to do the house work.”

Another girl, Madamma (9), claims to have studied till standard 2 back in Yadgir. “My favourite subject was Kannada. But after we came to Bangalore, I never joined any school as my parents told me we would go back to Yadgir soon. It has been two years since we came here.”

In stark contrast to all the children in the colony is Basava Lingamma (13), the daughter of migrant labourer parents from Raichur district. She is dressed in a light blue shirt and dark blue skirt, and has tied up her hair in a red ribbon. Her teachers at Eranapalya government school in Bangalore say that she is an ‘ideal’ student who manages the entire class when teachers are not around.

But, Basava Lingamma says that there is uncertainty about her future. “We might go back to our village, or may be another city, depending on where my parents find work,” she says.

Buddamma, who is from a family engaged in agriculture in Yadgir, says that people from her village were ‘forced’ to migrate to the city this year due to lack of rain. “Some of us decided a few months ago to come to Bangalore to supplement the family income. What is the point of sending children to school for a few months? We plan to return to Yadgir next year,” she said.

Ray of hope

This Children’s Day, there is a tiny ray of hope for at least some of these young ones. On Wednesday, 20 youngsters from the colony were identified as “Out Of School Children” (OOSC) and enrolled in nearby government schools.

However, teachers caution that the challenge does not end with enrolment. Tulasamma, a teacher in Eranapalya government school who was involved in identifying the children, said, “Enrolling migrant children is easy. The real challenge is in ensuring that they continue studies after migrating to other cities.”

Commissioner for Public Instruction Mohammad Mohsin says that the government is working on a mechanism to ensure that they stay in school. “If parents are migrating, officials convince them to let their children stay back in government hostels. But, sometimes we don’t even have time to get in touch with them as they shift overnight.”

Tent schools do their bit

Officials of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, under the education department, have been setting up tent schools for children of seasonal migrants. “These children can later continue their studies in their home town,” an official said.

They say that the new definition of a dropout — a child who is not in school for seven consecutive days without prior permission — might help education co-ordinators do a better job of tracking children of migrant labourers.

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