When the nine rag pickers, children of poor migrants, aged between 5-9 years, got admission in a government primary school in Nahan in Sirmaur district with efforts of Child Line run by Peoples’ Action for People in Need (PAPN), it seemed as if education would now anchor them to one place.
All this was short-lived, however, and the question of survival again left most of them anchorless in few days. Forced by circumstances, they had to leave Nahan looking for shelter and livelihood and their children had to drop out from school.
The Right to Education (RTE) glaringly proved a distant dream for them.
“Our generations have been moving from one place to another for livelihood and we are all illiterate. When my three children, including two daughters, got admission in school, we thought this will make their life. Within few days, the authorities in Nahan told us to pack off our make-do shelter on roadside (which they said was illegal) and leave the place where we were living for one year. We had no option, as none listened to us, despite several requests,” said Lashkar, 38, who originally hails from a village in Uttar Pradesh.
Lashkar and his wife Malan Devi, who had been selling iron items on roadside, left for Shimla ten days back, with their three kids, making them drop out from the school that they could attend only for 15-20 days. The other family went to Roorkee. Within a month, only one child (Nepalese), out of nine, is left in the school.
The Child Line team had identified these kids (who were often seen searching scrap on roads) as a part of its outreach programme for marginalised communities.
“We had motivated three families, two from UP and one from Nepal, to send their kids to school with great difficulty. We tied up with education department, took up their case with the Deputy Commissioner, and had finally got them admission in the government mode school here in mid of November. We made all the affidavits required for this and the children were also doing good in school,” said Sumitra Sharma, coordinator of Child Line in Nahan.
“The parents were so happy and said they would go to other place for livelihood after the exams of children, so that they get school leaving certificates. However, they had to leave like this without getting any documents from school. They may not get into schools at the new place easily,” she said.
This, however, is not the isolated case in Sirmaur district where the children of migrants are not getting the benefit of RTE for their peculiar circumstances. On the border of Haryana and Uttarakhand, Sirmaur is witness to regular influx of migrants and the problem of education for their kids. And probably the authorities too have failed to facilitate them, tackling their practical difficulties.
“I have been in touch with 50-60 children of migrants near Batta Pul on the outskirts of Paonta Sahib in Sirmaur. They are either seen selling balloons or begging or doing other petty works in the town. Counselling and facilitation both are difficult in such a situation, and the children are losing out on their prime time of education. Probably an arrangement of a special school for them will help them out,” said a counsellor with Child Line, Vineeta. She said there are so many other such slum like localities in Sirmaur, where children need to be facilitated at least for schooling.