Migrant labourers’ kids are left with no option but to stay with their parents

On July 5, the fire force personnel rescued three children — Malashree (7), Bagamma (6) and Kanakashree (an infant less than a year old), when a three-storey building caved in at Garudacharpalya in Mahadevapura.

It was 11.15 a.m. on Wednesday and the trio should ideally have been in classrooms or in an anganwadi rather than playing at the construction site where their parents were working.

About 15 minutes later, the building caved in, trapping the three.

Plight

Their parents are among several migrant labourers in K.R. Puram who have no alternative arrangements to park their children while they work. Beerappa, an uncle of one of the children, said: “We have nobody to take care of them. So we bring them to the construction site.”

Drought situation

Asked why the older children were not in school, he said: “We are poor people and we cannot miss even a day’s work. We can’t afford to drop and pick them up every day.”

There are hundreds of such youngsters who are deprived of basic education because of parental constraints. A large number of construction workers in the city are migrants from other districts of the State.

With the drought situation being severe, their numbers have spiked this season. The children and their families at Garudacharpalya are migrants from the drought-hit Yadgir district in north Karnataka.

The presence of the children at the construction site raises several questions on the grand promises made about bringing disadvantaged children into the mainstream, especially when the Right to Education (RTE) Act guarantees free and compulsory education till the age of 14.

Crèche facilities

Labour Commissioner S.R. Umashankar said: “When there are more than 20 children at a building site, we ask the construction company to provide crèche facilities. But we cannot prescribe standards for small residential buildings.”

Tushar Girinath, State Project Director of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, admitted that bringing migrant children into schools was a tough call. “Most of the construction workers are migrants; we are not in a position to track these children.”

Mr. Girinath said that help from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and co-ordination between departments is required to ensure that the children of migrants are enrolled into schools.

At a recent press conference, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri had said that about 4,000 children — especially from migrant families — have never been enrolled in schools in Karnataka.