The Hindu had reported the plight of children from Odisha in April

When Asish Mehra goes back home to Odisha next week, he will be careful to pack among his family’s meagre belongings two ruled notebooks and a school uniform.

“I am keeping them for the next year,” says the little chap.

Asish’s parents work in a brick kiln in Poochiathipedu in Tiruvallur district, and he goes to the closest government school. Ashish got his notebooks and uniform only now, at the fag end of the academic year.

The Hindu had carried a story in mid April indicating that though the children had classrooms to go to, their quota of books, notebooks and uniform had not yet arrived. While local NGOs managed to scrounge some textbooks from the previous years, the numbers were still insufficient.

Following the report, these children have now got uniforms and books, but scarcely a month before they are meant to leave for home. The migrants are set to return to Odisha soon and will be back only in January.

Under the Right to Education Act, these children who used to attend bridge courses, were incorporated in mainstream schools, where they got a room all to themselves. They continue to be instructed in Odiya, their mother tongue, by education volunteers from Odisha.

While the other kids in government schools (regular stream) got their quota of books, notebooks and uniform, these children missed out, because they arrived in the final quarter of the school year, G.Sundar, a volunteer with Aide et Action working with the children in the kilns pointed out.

They also had no noon meal to start out with, as a result of which, parents were reluctant to let the children go to school.

While some kids benefited because kiln owners provided food in the interim, most children stopped going to school. The books, uniform and noon meal were sanctioned from mid-April, and the children managed to get about a month or half a month of proper schooling.

The volunteers hoped that the next academic year will not be fraught with as many difficulties in giving these children an education. “They are already at a disadvantage as they have to migrate in the middle of the term with their parents.

Only now have their parents begun sending some of the children to school. By making the process difficult, we will only be ensuring that parents decide to keep them back in the kilns,” according to Mr. Sundar.

But that is unlikely to happen, Bosco, a coordinator with Aide et Action, pointed out.

“This year, the Chief Minister announced in the Assembly that Rs. 4.30 crore would be spent on ensuring that over 6,000 migrant children in Tamil Nadu go to school and get instructed in their own mother tongue,” he says.

This will be a big boost to the sector, as it indicates political will and commitment at the highest stages of governance in the State.

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