Research with the objective of finding innovative solutions for offering quality education and healthcare to the children of migrant labourers working in the brickfields near Kolkata, India
Seasonal migration, for employment, is a significant phenomenon in almost all poverty-driven states of India. Brick making is a seasonal occupation, where people migrate to the kilns for 7-8 months in a year to earn their livelihood. Migrant workers mostly belong to marginalized communities and live a life invisible to developmental scrutiny, with no access to their basic rights and entitlements. Even children below the age of 18 years accompany their parents to these brick kilns. In this process the most adversely effected section are these children, who are denied of basic education and a stable matrix of social and legal protection.
In its actual implementation, the project seeks to reduce the vulnerability of children of migrant brick-kiln labourers by providing the following to the children at the destination:
Educational support and exposure, in terms of imparting literacy, writing ability, number-use-proficiency, and general awareness
- Access to public health and immunization services.
- Awareness of basic hygiene and sanitation practices.
- Awareness of the right of each child to live with dignity and enjoy basic rights to education and health.
The aim of the conducted research is to come up with strategies that would ensure the uninterrupted education of the children, even when their parents migrate to the brickfields. With regard to this, some participatory workshops have been conducted in the brick fields with two-fold objectives.
- To talk to selected parents from the fields and identify their perception regarding the importance of education in their children’s lives.
- To categorize challenges faced by the families in keeping their children back at the source villages for their ongoing formal education, and come up with a bundle of solutions and present it to them.
Conducting such interactive workshops with all the families in the brick kilns would have been a herculean task. Hence, the team of Towards Future, our local partner organization, selected a focus group of 17 and 19 families from two kilns for the discussions. These are the families, which are relatively more progressive in their thinking and are alleged to be the early adapters. These are also primarily parents who have children between 6-14 years of age. The first objective was fulfilled through mainly group discussions. In both the brick fields we held participatory discussions with the motive of understanding the views of the parents on the importance of education and we were delighted to find that all the parents unanimously agreed upon the importance of formal education for their children. To address the second objective we chose to interact with the families first on a one-on-one basis, and then in smaller groups of five. These interactions brought many interesting facts on the surface, which needs to be further examined.
Rashmi Jha is a research scholar, who has been working in the social sector for more than 10 years. So far, she has worked mostly with children. Currently, she is doing her PhD from Visva Bharati University, Shantiniketan, India with the topic “Use of theatre in community development – a study of selected NGOs in Eastern India”.