KOCHI: A grade 3 classroom in Union LPS, Thrikanarvattom, Kaloor, solely comprises 12 migrant students. This might seem rather unnatural, but to the school, it is no surprise. Popularly known as the ‘Hindi’ school, Union LPS has always grabbed headlines for the higher proportion of migrants over Malayali students. The primary challenge, however, has always been retaining them in classes.
However, the 2019-20 academic year has seen a spurt: dropout rates have reduced to a large extent across the years. As per a comparative study, while 124 students dropped out of government and government-aided schools in Ernakulam in 2017-18, only 65 dropped out in 2018-19.
The rate reduced by 25 students in 2019-20. If anything, it makes Sumayya Beevi, headmistress of Union LPS, glad. “Today, we have a total of 73 students, of whom 60 are migrant students. The number has increased by around 20 students this year,” she said. The reason? “There is a huge inflow of migrant labourers to the state, nevertheless, the
Roshni project has played a tremendous role in keeping them in school,” she adds. Roshni, which was launched in 2017 by the district administration under the then-District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla as an initiative to bridge language barriers and provide nutritious food via a breakfast scheme, was launched in four schools. Today, the outreach stands at 38 schools with 40 volunteers.
“Most migrant students are in Class I and II. Parents are interested in sending their children when they realise that their ward would not face many difficulties in academics. The addition of breakfast plays a huge role,” said Sumayya.
This year has also seen the increase of migrant students in the district by 44 per cent from 1,753 to 3,985 as per Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK), the government’s education portal. “The increase in number can also be attributed to employment opportunities here. More than anything, the quality of education under Roshni has increased to a large extent. There is complete enrolment, dropout rates are low and the linguistic barrier with the help of volunteers are being overcome,” said Sajoy George, district programme officer, SSK.
Upon a survey conducted last May, SSK has enrolled 185 migrant students in schools across the district. “SSK volunteers, ASHA workers and cluster coordinators went to migrant settlements to find children who should be at school, as per their right,” he said.
The academic coordinator of Roshni, Jayashree K, wants to shoot for the moon. “We currently have only two volunteers who are migrants themselves. The plan is to inculcate more migrant students and reach higher levels, across the state, perhaps. However, more funds are required through CSR or other methods,” she said.
But, are Hindi and English solely enough for these students, who hail from different states? “We need more teachers who speak their language. They need to know their mother tongue along with Malayalam. Also, the practice of additional volunteers has been there since 2008, as part of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Roshni has brought it to light. However, the impact of the scheme is best gauged after a few more years,” said Benoy Peter, executive director, Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development.