Teaching ABC to children of labourers

Special Correspondent

Pratham Rajasthan’s unique education project a success story in Bikaner district

JAIPUR: A unique education project launched by Pratham Rajasthan – a non-government organisation working for the cause of primary education – has benefited a large number of children of labourers working at brick kilns in Kolayat block of Bikaner district.

These brick kilns run between October and June every year and the labourers stay there with their families for nine continuous months to earn their livelihood. The deadline for completion of fabrication and drying of bricks and the limited wages often compel the labourers to engage their children in the work as helpers, depriving them of the opportunity to attend regular school.

Pratham Rajasthan focused on the impact of seasonal migration on education about six months ago and found that nearly 1,500 children belonging to 200 families staying on the brick kiln premises in areas such as Kolayat and Madh were deprived of basic education. While schools are situated far away from the brick kilns, no school at their native places is ready to enrol them as they migrate every year.

According to Pratham Rajasthan project coordinator Vijay Pal Singh Shekhawat, children in the age group of 6 to 14 years read and learn in two-hour classes run everyday by the teachers of the NGO. The kids are also introduced to extra-curricular activities such as games.

Mr. Shekhawat said Pratham Rajasthan’s initiative had solved a major problem faced by the labourers in educating their children. When the season of producing bricks ends with the onset of the monsoon, the labourers go back to their native villages to look after their agricultural fields, but their children cannot join any school there as they have to migrate again.

“When I find my son studying in the class adjacent to the kiln here, I overcome my guilty conscience over asking him to help me in drying the bricks,” said Ghasi Ram, a labourer, to Mr. Shekhawat during his field visit to one of the 15 brick kilns where the project has been initiated.

Thirteen-year-old child labourer Manphool Ram, elated over his ability to read and write, told Mr. Shekhawat that he had learnt basic arithmetic and identification of English alphabets in the class. “I know counting and I can also write ABCD…,” he said with a beaming smile.

The project coordinator said the accelerated learning programme had helped the labourers – who had a dual duty as farmers – in solving the complicated situation created by their seasonal migration. Umeda Singh, a labourer, told him with satisfaction that his three sons could now continue with their studies despite the school in his native village refusing to enrol them only for the rainy season.

The contractors running the kilns have also extended support to Pratham Rajasthan’s initiative. Mr. Shekhawat said the predicament of migrant labour vis-À-vis the children’s education could be sorted out if the State Government engaged them on priority under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to minimise their seasonal migration. In addition, providing residential facility to the children at brick kilns and helping them in gaining access to the nearby schools could also solve the problem of deprivation of education to a significant extent, said Mr. Shekhawat.

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