Pradeep Kumar, a migrant labourer from Orissa who is working at a construction site within the Loyola College campus, has not thought about how he is going to educate his five-year-old son Vibhu and three-year-old daughter Shavoni, who live with him on the campus.
“Where is the school here?” he asks. “None of the children here go to school,” he says.
Around 40-odd children of migrant labourers mostly from Orissa, and some from Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand who live behind Loyola-ICAM College of Engineering and Technology (LICET) on the Loyola College campus where their parents work, have never seen the inside of a school, or have dropped out when they left their villages when their parents moved in search of work.
Though there have been ad-hoc efforts to provide some form of education to the children, benefits of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act are yet to reach their doorsteps.
According to the residents of the settlement, they have been here for close to four years. Rough estimates indicate that there are over 200 people on the site.
The settlement was briefly part of the School-on-Wheels project run by non-governmental organisation Udhavum Karangal, between May and December 2012, according to Vidyakar, a social worker of the organisation.
Acting on a complaint by the Unorganised Worker’s Federation, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights then took up the issue and visited the site on Monday, said Nina Nayak, a member of the commission.
“These children have been here for close to four years, and they have not been going to a school and there seems to have been no effort to find out if there is an anganwadi nearby,” she said, adding that some of the children were malnourished.
Ms. Nayak said they have held meetings with representatives from the social welfare, school education, labour, home and health departments about this settlement. P. Ayyannan, chief educational officer, Chennai district, Sarva Shiksha Abhyan (SSA), who visited the site on Wednesday, said they would make arrangements to provide books and a special educator within a week’s time. But since the SSA does not have an educator who can converse in Oriya, they would be taking the help of P. Dev, an individual volunteer who has been teaching the children for some time, he said.