Home / Education / News /  Orissa survey reveals toll of migration on education

New Delhi: Non-profit Aide et Action last week presented the startling results of a survey of 1,970 migrant children from a district in western Orissa to local government officials, revealing that fewer than 1% of the children surveyed were actually enrolled in school.

Conducted in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the survey revealed that only 34 children were attending classes, only 44 were accessing local anganwadi or government-run childcare facilities, and that fewer than 3% were getting routine immunizations.

“Orissa has the highest dropout rates and a lot of that is because so many children are migrating out," said South Asia regional head of Aide et Action, Umi Daniel. “They attend school for sometime but then they leave to migrate with their families. When they come back they cannot keep up and they drop out."

A new state government policy aims to change that: The Orissa government will be creating on-campus residences for children so they can stay enrolled in school while their families migrate for seasonal work in other states.

The state has budgeted 8.6 crore towards the allocation of about 100 such seasonal residential hostels in the districts of Balangir, Bargarh and Nuapada, which have high migratory populations.

Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the Centre’s elementary school education programme, the state government will identify and allocate hostel facilities on school campuses, which they aim to have ready by October, when many of the families leave for seasonal work.

Aide et Action has been running seasonal hostels in collaboration with Balangir district since 2002 and is urging the Orissa government to adopt the strategy and scale it up. “This is a good beginning," said Daniel. “But there is also large internal migration to cities—the government should address that also."

Residential programmes are not entirely new. Seasonal hostels have also been piloted in other states, including Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. What sets the Orissa government’s initiative apart is its reliance on data: Under the new programme, local non-governmental organizations and SSA officials will collaborate in conducting an annual survey of children in the state, and identify and prepare hostels to retain them in schools while their parents migrate for seasonal work.

“We have made provisions for 5,300 children in three districts—Balangir, Bargarh, Nuapada—who used to migrate to different places. We have made the programme to contain them in the local community by opening seasonal hostels," said Krishna Gopal Mohapatra, state project director for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

Next year, the government aims to expand the survey to cover all of Orissa, he added.

Each of the 100 hostels the government expects to set up this year will accommodate 40-50 children. The hostels will be on campus or within walking distance of the schools, and will be staffed by teachers or other responsible adults.

The Orissa government has also entered into a partnership with the government of Andhra Pradesh, the destination state for the bulk of Orissa’s brick kiln workers, to set up local schools catering to their children, and staffed by Oriya-speaking teachers.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, passed in 2009, makes education compulsory for children between the ages of six and 14. While the Act specifies that state governments are responsible for enrolment, ensuring attendance and the completion of elementary school by every child, the language is vague as to how governments are to ensure attendance.

At an estimated 2 million people, Orissa has among the largest out-migration population in India. Every year, shortly after the June-September monsoon, an estimated 700,000 families leave their villages in Orissa to migrate to other states for seasonal work in factories, brick kilns and construction (often with their children in tow) for 6-8 months.

Often unable to speak the language of the destination state, many of these migrant children have trouble integrating into local schools and simply don’t attend, according to Daniel.

This massive annual migration has been noted as one of the primary reasons that Orissa has among the highest numbers of out-of-school children in the country. The other states topping the charts for out-of-school children, according to Unicef data, are Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh—also states with large seasonal migrant populations.

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