BHUBANESWAR: Education of children of migrant labourers of the State has come to a halt with schools closed and classes going virtual since the Covid-19 outbreak.
A large number of vulnerable children in the schoolgoing age had to give up education and migrate along with their parents to work sites owing to closure of schools and seasonal hostels during the second wave of the pandemic.
This has come to fore in a study conducted by Aide et Action recently among 52 migrant parents who shifted to other districts within Odisha besides, Tamil Nadu and Telangana to work in construction sites and brick kilns earlier this year.
It pointed out that although some parents owned smart phones and were aware of online education, they could not afford to buy internet data packs to ensure continuous access to virtual classes.
“Covid affected education of migrant children in many ways during both the waves. In the first wave, many of them who returned to Odisha along with their migrant parents did not get admission due to closure of schools in their villages. Many migrants were clueless who to approach for readmission as schools were closed. Those who were left behind by parents with their grandparents or relatives prior to the Covid outbreak last year lost their education to school closure and lack of access to the internet. In the second wave, children did not get access to schooling at the places where they migrated”, said Umi Daniel, Director, Migration & Education, Aide et Action International.
Odisha has over 200 seasonal hostels in high migration prone blocks in western Odisha districts of Nuapada, Bargarh and Balangir.
These hostels retained around 8,000 children of migrants. Following lockdown in the first wave, these hostels were closed and children shifted to their relatives’ houses.
“This time when their parents decided to move out for work, they took their children as the hostels are yet to open”, Daniel added.
At the brick kilns and construction sites, there is an increase of 69 per cent of migrant children this year than the previous year out of which, 49 pc of children are in the age group of 6-14.
The report pointed out that most of such children have entered into the labour force, either to help their parents or work as paid labourers. Only 26 pc of the parents who were interviewed said that their child is engaged in taking sibling care while another four per cent said they only roam around the work sites.
Most of the parents suggested that schools should be opened with appropriate Covid norms or remedial classes be provided as an alternative to their children at both the source (village) and destination (work sites).
There is an increase of 69 pc of migrant children at brick kilns and construction sites
Around 26 pc children engaged in taking sibling care
Four pc children roam around the work sites
200 seasonal hostels in high migration-prone blocks