In India, a nationwide lockdown, as a response to COVID-19 containment, triggered a mass exodus of migrants on foot. Luggage perched on their heads, babies in arms, and elderly struggling alongside, migrants fled to their native villages. If we look at the overall figures of migrants (inter and intra-state movement) as per the World Economic Forum and Census 2011, it’s a staggering 139 million.
It is in this context, that AIF organized a webinar on Migration and Humanitarian Protection – Perspectives from the Grassroots. The discussion focused on the recent challenges faced by the migrant workers and their families, their urgent needs and the constraints within which development workers are trying to serve those needs.
In this article, Dr. Swati Jha sums up how AIF’s LAMP program has been working in communities affected by distress seasonal migration for the last 15 years, and children enrolled in the program’s interventions have shown marked improvement in their learning outcomes. She also highlights what needs to be done to secure a better future for children from migrating communities.
Access to Education
Aligned with the Right to Education Act (2010), AIF’s Learning And Migration Program (LAMP) works towards ensuring that children remain in schools, develop strong foundational skills and establish a norm for education in the community. This integrated strategy enables LAMP to engage in advocacy and bring about a systemic change in mainstream education.
While implementing, a critical issue that we are faced with is the enormous learning deficit in children. Various studies have also established that a sizeable number of children in grade 6 lack the basic language and mathematical skills necessary for engaging with the curriculum in higher grades. This problem is further compounded by the fact that a majority of children are first-generation learners and lack the critical element of home support. The end result is the accumulation of serious learning deficits that push children to drop out in large numbers.
Since 2004, AIF has implemented a series of integrated interventions under LAMP, such as Seasonal Hostels, Learning Enrichment Program (LEP) and Learning Resource Centers(LRC), in some of the most backward and migration prone geographies, which witness the exodus of its villagers to various parts of the country, in search of a livelihood. Till date, LAMP has provided quality education opportunities to 583,877 children in 2,279 villages across 13 states of India.
Strengthening Learning Outcomes
Recently an external study was undertaken to evaluate the impact of LAMP’s intervention on the strengthening of learning outcomes in Odisha. Students of Grades III-VI were evaluated on the learning outcomes appropriate for their levels. The findings indicate that teaching children in their mother tongue and focusing on language learning, mathematics, and science proves to be an effective solution. This not only makes children school-ready, but they also gain social competence and develop basic numeracy and literacy skills. The findings also emphasized that Teacher Training in government schools, School Governance and Community Engagement, together weave a net around children and prevent their falling through it. According to the ASER 2018, in Odisha, only 28.3%% of students in Grade III could do subtraction. In comparison, 97.5% of Grade III students under LAMP’s learning intervention could do both addition and subtraction.
The study indicated how timely and age-specific interventions can enhance the quality of education and assure long-term sustainability. Improvement in teaching-learning processes (pedagogy), school leadership and community participation play an important role in ensuring regularity of attendance of children and their active participation.
Impact of Covid-19 on Education
The lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of learning among children, especially those in shelters or rural and far-flung areas due to closure of schools, will have a ripple effect on their enrollment, especially for girls. The new academic session commences every year in April, and this year children in rural areas are without books, instructions, or guidance. This might lead to an increase in learning deficits and drop-out rates, particularly in that of adolescent girls, who may have to face early and forced marriage.
All this will have an adverse impact on the hard-won gains of access and quality of education, particularly in rural areas as economic stress on families due to the outbreak can put children at a greater risk of exploitation. Programmatically, it could require us to take a step back and focus on bringing all these children back to schools.
What Children from Migrating Communities Need
This situation has also highlighted the digital divide between rural and urban areas. Many state governments have issued directives regarding online education but inadequate or non-availability of supporting digital infrastructure is a deterrent. For example, the government of Chhattisgarh has launched a portal for online education, but the mobile phone penetration in rural areas of the state is only 30%! The current situation underscores the need for “democratization of technology” like internet connectivity, telecom infrastructure and affordability of online systems. Alternative options like online or distance education need to be brought within the reach of rural and underserved children.
Education needs to be made inclusive and resilient and in rural areas. It will require a major overhaul – a combination of high tech, low tech, and no tech measures. With this in mind, the LAMP team put together a blend of measures to reach out to children, in the program’s operating geographies. During the initial days of lockdown, books and storybooks were distributed among the children and then gradually the team initiated mobile-led interactions. A leading online learning platform offered free use of their App, and this has excited the LAMP team and its children further.
These are difficult times for everyone, but harder for children from migrant families struggling to survive and it is in this context that LAMP aims at creating positive life-stories.
Your support can make a big difference in the continuity of education of these children:
- $50 can make a child school ready in 6 months
- $100 can provide mental health support for 10 children for 6 months
- $200 can sponsor a scholarship for one girl from a migrant family to retain her in school for a year
- $2500 can provide digital/online education for 100 children for a year
- $5000 can support an integrated education, employability & entrepreneurship program in 6 villages for a year