Amidst the bustle of a construction site near the Koyambedu wholesale market, a few children practice the letters of the English and Hindi alphabets, oblivious of the noise around them.

In a small, dimly-lit room in the building under construction, 12 children aged between five and 10 diligently copy lessons displayed on blackboards. These children of migrant labourers from Andhra Pradesh and Orissa don’t miss their classes at the centre set up by Aide et Action, a non-governmental organisation that works towards providing access to education to all children.

Nine-year-old C. Uma, is one of the toppers in the class that usually houses up to 28 children. “I like Telugu and Maths. I like coming here as I can also dance and play,” said Uma, who took a break from school of nearly a year, when she shifted from her hometown in Andhra Pradesh to Chennai.

For Sadana, the centre is her window to the world. “I even learn about the city and went to the beach along with my teacher. My parents are too busy to take me out,” she said.

With more migrant labourers seeking work in the city, the need for such centres is growing. Class teacher P. Subbulakshmi, divides children into groups and teaches them in their own language, Telugu or Hindi. “These children keep shifting between their hometown and the city, depending on their parents’ work schedules. I also spend some time advising their parents to ensure their children’s education is continued wherever they go,” she said.

Volunteers of Aide et Action chose the site based on the number of families there. The organisation runs similar centres in construction sites in Oragadam and Perambur.

A. Bosgo, programme manager of Aide et Action, said unlike centres being run in brick kilns in neighbouring districts, the ones in Chennai opened a year ago but are yet to get support from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Officials of the Integrated Child Development Scheme soon plan to cover migrant children below the age of five for the noon-meal scheme, he added.

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